Monday, December 17, 2012

Broken Promise

How will America keep its children safe?

by Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, December 17, 2012, Atlanta – Twenty more American children are being mourned this week. They and six of their teachers were slain Friday by a lone gunman. They were at “school” getting set for another day of learning in Newtown, Connecticut. To our public knowledge, no official has described Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as an act of terror. No homeland security breach has been logged. No national security threat has been alleged.

Before Newtown, before Sanford, before Virginia Tech, before Columbine, before 9-11-2001, America promised safe places to learn. But America’s Promise of a safe place to learn is today another promise broken.

The President of the United States came to offer the “love and prayers” of a nation. “Our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you…we've pulled our children tight,” said President Obama. “Whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown -- you are not alone.”

The president’s on-site assessment of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School gave measure to a certain reality about raising 21st Century America. “With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm,” he said. “This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation.”

A veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces is perhaps among the most frustrated of American citizens. They know that something can be done. Since 2001, about 2,000 American service men and women have died in Afghanistan; in that same time period, 5,000 people have died in Chicago.

The biggest problem returning veterans face has been finding believers, or converting unbelievers before they themselves lose it. Too many Americans see raising American children as a job. We outsource the solution as “students” to teachers in 19th century environments labeled as “schools.” But raising America, like raising the stars and stripes, is an investment in social enterprise.

In this economy that child is the GNP. Any threat on his or her life is a national security breach. Sustaining children through their holistic development answers the call for change in the business of educating a generation of lifelong learners.

Let’s face it! Tops down government can’t even fund a kept promise. So, what if we were to try a bottoms-up faith-based approach? We’ve been doing that since Jesus came and have still not fully embraced the possibilities. So, what about this new strategy? Have the wealthy pay more in taxes, engage the poor with a hand up, and restore America from the middle out.

The “measure of comfort” promised by the president to a grieving nation perhaps answers the “what can be done?” question. The national debate is now shifting from fiscal cliff to how we spend less to get more out of the American people. There is no shortage of resources for keeping children safe in America. But for one day, in just a few minutes, America was attacked…again. Don’t blame the first responders. Don’t blame the politicians. Don’t blame the teachers, the parents, the school bus drivers. And, don’t blame God!

Blame terror. Once the dust clears, history almost always reveals both problem and a pathway to one or more solutions. When terrorists struck on September 11, 2001, America responded with a whole new tops-down strategy.

The federal government has since spent more than half a trillion dollars on homeland security—that is, activities that detect, deter, protect against, and respond to terrorist acts occurring within the United States and its territories. The President’s request of $68.9 billion to fund the Department of Homeland Security is 1.3 percent more than the amount provided for 2012. Every cabinet-level department receives homeland security funding, with the lion’s share allocated to:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS—$35.5 billion, or 52 percent of the total homeland security request);
  • Department of Defense (DoD—$17.9 billion, or 26 percent);
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS—$4.1 billion or 6 percent); and
  • Department of Justice (DOJ—$4.0 billion or 6 percent).

The U.S. Department of Education currently administers a budget of $68.1 billion in discretionary appropriations (including discretionary Pell Grant funding) and operates programs that touch on every area and level of education. The Department's elementary and secondary programs annually serve nearly 16,000 school districts and approximately 49 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools. Department programs also provide grant, loan, and work-study assistance to more than 15 million postsecondary students.

Homeland security is an umbrella term for security efforts to protect states against terrorist activity. Specifically, it is a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the U.S., reduce United State’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power. The concept developed mostly in the United States of America after World War II. Initially focusing on military might, it now encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the non military or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society.

To possess national security, a nation needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security, etc. Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, and lone gunmen. Known measures to ensure national security include:

  • using diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats
  • marshaling economic power to facilitate or compel cooperation
  • maintaining effective armed forces
  • implementing civil defense and emergency preparedness measures (including anti-terrorism legislation)
  • ensuring the resilience and redundancy of critical infrastructure
  • using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and to protect classified information
  • using counterintelligence services or secret police to protect the nation from internal threats

At what point will measures of comfort, both known and unknown be applied to protecting America’s Future? At what point can America’s future value America’s Promise?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Moment in History’s Shadow

By Eric and Stephanie Stradford


ABOVE: General P.X. Kelley pictured with Attorney Herb Harmon ( c ) at Bobby Vans Grill. The 28th Commandant of the Marine Corps invoked an enduring spirit during the annual gathering of the “Gang of Thirty,” commemorating the 237th Marine Corps Birthday. BELOW:  Insight on the commandancy.

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AMWS, November 10, 2012, Washington, DC – Hard-chargin’ U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Dennis LeNard experienced something special about the Corps he served from 1989-1993. Now, Staff Director, Congressional Marines for the Office of Legislative Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, LeNard’s purpose and presence at the U.S. Capitol is to remind America’s elected that one voice can make a difference.

In true Marine fashion, LeNard charged up Capitol Hill to share what he had experienced only moments before at Bobby Van’s Grill in Northwest Washington, DC. Jim Hickey, the business owner had set a table for “calling to mind the glories” of United States Marines. The 28th Commandant of the Marine Corps stepped out from the shadows of legend and lore to reset America’s compass for a new direction forward.

On the eve of the Corps’ 237th Birthday, the oldest living commandant sowed into a gathering of seasoned leathernecks from his own vault of American values. “Gen. Kelley is an absolute hero to our Corps. We love him, we respect him, we revere him.” said General James F. Amos. “He’s a man of courage, a man of integrity and a great American patriot.”

The 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps was in “virtual” attendance at the annual gathering of the “Gang of Thirty.” But the “almost spiritual, religious bond between former and living Commandants” added value to service for those in the room and their reach around the globe, sharing the legacy of United States Marines. “The Gang” includes some of Washington, DC’s elite movers and shakers, maintaining a presence in almost every sector of government and society. Almost every commandant since Kelley has honored the occasion with a physical presence.

Marine Colonel Herbert N. “Herb” Harmon of DC’s prestigious Harmon and Wilmot law firm has perpetuated “espirit de corps” in the nation’s capitol for as long as any living Marine. That esprit de corps is “the capacity of a group's members to maintain belief in an institution or goal, particularly in the face of opposition or hardship.” According to Kelley, Harmon spearheaded the Marine Corps Marathon, an annual event the general refers to as “The Race.” Harmon stepped into race founder Colonel Jim Fowler's footprints and has since chaired the Marine Corps Marathon Ad Hoc Publicity Committee.

Harmon served as a platoon commander in Vietnam in 1968 and retired from the Marine Corps reserve in 1998. He is a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, former National Judge Advocate General of the Marine Corps Aviation Association and a member of the Marine Corps League. He also served as the Reserve Officers Association National President from 1997-1998.

A word from the current Commandant of the Marine Corps added purpose to General Kelley’s participation, value to the commandancy, and vision for forward movement. “You know, I’ve been in the job now for about 18 days,” said General John F. Amos shortly after assuming command of the Marine Corps October 22, 2010.

“During the days of preparation before taking it – this wonderful job that I’ve been blessed with – I spent time with every living Commandant. Gen. P.X. Kelley, our oldest and most distinguished living Commandant and I spent an afternoon together. And it was like – my goal that evening was to pick his brain on all of those things that are unique to the office: those things that surprised him, those things that he felt very good about, those things, those pearls that he might want to pass on to me.”

Tomorrow, November 11th, Veterans Day, the family of U.S. Marines celebrates General Kelley’s 84th birthday, and a shared legacy as “the most faithful patriot and leader in service to our nation.” As I stood in General Kelley’s shadow for a moment after 40 years of active and retired life as a U.S. Marine, something clicked. It was louder than the sound a Marine rifleman hears right after B.R.A.S.S. I felt the presence of fallen heroes and wounded warriors whose blood, flesh and spirit define America as a nation.

Sometimes America needs to be reminded. That hard-chargin’ Marine Lance Corporal, in the midst of our nation’s elected, stands on the shoulders of the commandancy and every U.S. Marine. His “caucus” looked more like a fire-team of emerging leaders with no sense or fear of failure. Greg Jones, son of 32nd commandant and 22nd National Security Advisor General Jim Jones, seemed to be a natural for guiding common sense conversation.

The younger Jones has stood in the shadow cast by Harmon, Fowler and other ordinary Marines sustaining the extraordinary legacy of United States Marines. If ever a commander-in-chief and a congress needed a “What’s next?” in a period of uncertainty…they need just ask a Marine! Every one of us knows that FORWARD is part one (preparatory) of a two part order. Forward movement almost always follows with the command of execution, “MARCH!”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Every 1 in 6 Million Ohioans Need To Vote Early

By Eric and Stephanie Stradford

AMWS, October 21, 2012, Cleveland, OH – The State of Ohio reported that 1.4 million Ohioans have either cast or requested an absentee ballot for the November 6 General Election. The Ohio Secretary of State’s website now informs the last of 7.9 million Ohio voters WHERE they can go for early voting. 

UPDATE (3:49 pm 10/22) --  Find Your Polling Location

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s “encouragement” could have been a little more enthusiastic since voting is one of those inalienable rights celebrated through American citizenship. Instead, regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of a stay of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Obama v. Husted, the Secretary told Ohioans, “Despite the Court’s decision today, to deny our request for a stay, I firmly believe Ohio and its elected legislature should set the rules with respect to elections in Ohio, and not the federal court system.”

The Ohio Secretary of State issued DIRECTIVE 2012-50 to all County Boards of Elections which, “expands the uniform days and hours for in-person absentee voting established by Directive 2012-35, which remains in effect. As such, Boards are reminded that any voter in line when that day’s hours for in-person absentee voting ends may remain in line to apply for and receive an absentee ballot in person.”

If you are one of the 6.5 million Ohioans who have not voted, you should vote:

Saturday, November 3, 2012 – 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 4, 2012 – 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday, November 5, 2012 – 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

If you do not vote on one of these days, it is imperative, RAIN, SNOW or SHINE that you cast your ballot on November 6. You may need to call the Secretary of State for information on where to vote. His number is 877-767-6446.
Despite all our individual and collective efforts, too many eligible voters won’t get the word unless one connected somebody visits, calls, or emails a friend and tell them what needs to be done and why. Some are still waiting for the last hour on Tuesday, November 6 to arrive at the polls just in time to be disenfranchised.

The “issue” for about 11,544,951 Americans who live, work and worship here is about trust. It’s about shaking loose from shackles that keep you and others like you poor, stupid and locked up.

If every Ohioan could vote in the November 6 election for president, 5,887,925 would count as a 51% majority for 4% of the total U.S. population. Perhaps a simpler formula might be to divide four in half and get a 2% majority of a minority that only counts on Election Day. Being counted in the minority has been a major part of the problem across the U.S – even in Ohio.

U.S. foreign policy is impacted by American interests. How “We The People” participate in democracy pretty much paints the picture for the global village. Both contestants in tonight’s third and final debate have been tripping over each other to get to Ohio. There’s an historic American institution called The Electoral College. It has no campus and no scheduled classes, but its math counts in presidential elections.

There’s yet another historic institution that neither candidate for president wants to consider in a national security debate. That institution, established in perpetuity in 1712 today answers the “why” 12% of Ohioans must vote.

African Americans were among the first residents of Ohio. Most of these people were free, but undoubtedly, a small number of them were slaves. Ohio's first constitution, the Ohio Constitution of 1803, outlawed slavery. Despite this legal protection, African Americans faced much racism and discrimination in the state.

The state constitutional convention prohibited African-American men from voting. Black men and women could not serve in the militia, serve on juries, testify in court against whites, receive assistance at the "poor house," vote, or send their children to public schools. Many whites actively sought to prevent blacks from coming to Ohio, fearing a loss of jobs to African-American workers. Many white Ohioans were also racists. Despite the discrimination that African Americans endured, many black Ohioans favored life in Ohio rather than living as slaves in the South.

Over time, conditions for African Americans improved in Ohio. During the nineteenth century, many whites actively assisted slaves in escaping from their owners along the Underground Railroad. Many of these same whites called for the Ohio government to extend equal rights to African Americans. During the twentieth century, especially during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the Civil Rights Movement raged, with both blacks and many whites seeking equality for people of all races.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Seventh Graders Learn-2-Earn

By Eric Stradford

AMWS, September 27, 2012, Marietta, GA – Life Science Learners at Marietta Middle School caught a glimpse of their own value as economic stimulus. A majority of the students in Justin Waller’s class already know they are winners.

Through a joint effort of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce and Youth Achievers USA Institute, they learned today of a value-added link between their school studies and their future value in the American workforce. Any one of the winners in today’s classroom can pursue careers in pathology, genetics, or reproductive science. These three paths offer countless career choices in an economy of innovation.

Mr. Waller adds value to a vision of the winners’ future as an “educational ambassador” for Marietta City Schools. As Marietta School System’s Teacher of the Year, he advocates for the school system and its students. Citizens who earn the Teacher of the Year title are “exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled” according to the program website.

The teacher’s individual capacity to learn drew increased interest from school administrators, the Chamber of Commerce, and Youth Achievers USA Institute, a national public charity promoting American youth as future community assets. The teacher inspired students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, showed respect and admiration of students and colleagues, and added value to the community as well as the school.

Both students and the visiting Teacher of the Day can tell you that Mr. Waller is a gifted scientist. He earned an education degree at Kennesaw State University after realizing he wanted to do more for his community. Among his accomplishments are the construction of an outdoor classroom which includes two greenhouses, a rose garden, benches, two flower boxes, and leading a "Go Green" club that picks up recyclable materials at least twice a week.

Today, seventh graders learned that life science is any science that deals with living organisms, their life processes, and their interrelationships as biology, medicine, or ecology. Basically, they learned about their own body systems by dissecting a frog.

Tomorrow, they must decide on their own path toward economic security. Lessons learned in S.T.E.M. and a community’s commitment to Positive Youth Development will ensure a path paved with opportunity.

Caring adults interested in stimulating the economy though investment on Our Streets, USA can CLICK HERE TO ENGAGE in Learn-2-Earn.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stimulus for Our Street, USA

Investment in Human Capital…best foot forward

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, Washington, DC, Sept. 24, 2012 -- There’s a new stimulus for the American economy. It’s just over the horizon, but close enough for investors to bank on its future value. Before now, innovation economics has been another buzz word for the impossible dream. The plan for ending two wars, tackling defense spending, bailing out Wall Street, and Detroit has transparently matriculated before our very eyes. As Congress recessed from recess today, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation shared a vision of America’s future.

Marine Corps Lieutenant General Willie J. Williams factored in the reality of a downsized military force and the impact of trained veterans returning to Our Street, USA. In the past, African American communities have received veterans with some hesitation. “After leaving the Marine Corps, I shared some news with schools, faith and community leaders about the Internet,” said one veteran. “They looked at me like I was crazy. When I started telling them about how this could impact their economic reality, some looked like a deer in the headlights of oncoming traffic.”

The 42nd Annual Legislative Conference, dubbed ALC 2012, highlights the CBCF mission to “develop leaders, inform policy and to educate the public.” Conference participants heard about a digital divide that’s been with us since Vice President Al Gore allegedly “invented” the Internet. Some of the key issue forums and brain trusts touched on real problems faced by a constituency of historically disadvantaged Americans. But other conversations just fed into bad habits among broad sectors of the African American Community. “You know who frustrates the so-called "blue dog" Democrat -- who block President Obama in the name of fiscal responsibility. Do they know that they are hindering economic recovery?” posted economist, author, and commentator. Dr. Julianne Malveaux,

Dr. Malveaux and other informed conventioneers seeking substance in a slew of rhetorical theorizing already see the light at the end of a divisive election. With no legitimate opponent left standing, Barack Obama wins by default. Never before in American history has a divisive contest produced such a possibility for a political win-win. Skipping past scheduled debates, the possibility of another questionable election and right to Mitt Romney’s succession speech promotes one short path to common vision for America’s future.

Right now, the shortest distance between the $16 trillion national debt and economic recovery is a straight line. Or, for the sake of debate -- a line segment, connecting point A to point B. The classic answer in mathematics, underscores Arkansan wisdom from former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton reminded America, the economy comes down to arithmetic. That holds true for elections as well as governing after elections. America works best when citizens engage and support their collective decisions.

The math is far more significant for men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. A majority of voters elect the president. A majority in Congress appropriates public funds. A majority of veterans follow orders in defense of national security. A change in policy resulting in reduced combat forces means an increase in veterans returning home. High unemployment rates among veterans reflect an America’s failure. If a veteran fights for us over there, we should fight for you over here. However, the more trained veterans in the workforce, the more first-jobbers get laid off.

Like Mr. Clinton said, it’s arithmetic. Moving forward with investment in human capital is essential if America is to be strong in both the public and private sectors. Our future depends on it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

YouthUSA Targets Acworth as New Market

"Discovering God's New Possibilities” for Our Street, USA


YouthUSA National Director Yvonne Griswold, an economist for the federal government, met with Acworth Youth Achiever Mariasonniah Smith (center) and her sisters to talk about Money-n-the-Bank goals.

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, August 26, 2012, Acworth, GA - Economists for a national public charity are “paying attention” to new market investment opportunities for Our Street, USA.

Mariquel E. Smith, 11 and Desiree L. Moore, 20 of Acworth are attracting national attention to their hometown through their vision for “fellowship” with “a whole village” of caring adults. The latest candidates for THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS are local residents who “believe I can achieve whatever I believe I can achieve.” Last year, Mariasonniah Smith, 13 of Acworth, leveraged her Money-n-the-Bank goals to a $1000 fellowship commitment from Youth Achievers USA Institute. Mary-Pat Hector, 15, a youth activist from Jonesboro also qualified for benefits in 2011.

New candidates and recent winners visited Acworth’s historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church for an “Open House” event. YouthUSA Director Yvonne R. Griswold, an economist for the federal government, joined asset managers and mentors to add value to vision for the Acworth community. “Any inclusive vision for America’s future must consider economic needs where Americans live, learn, work and worship,” said Griswold.

The Reverend Leela Brown Waller, pastor for the Bethel congregation, kicked off a season of "Discovering God's New Possibilities." Ironically, the congregation worships at the intersection of Bell and School Streets, a metaphorically significant crossroad marker for church (Bell) and state (School).  “I’m so glad you’re here to see our Acworth community during construction so that you can witness the new possibilities after God completes His plan," said Waller.


GAME ON! The Reverend Leela Brown Waller, Historic Bethel AME Church’s new pastor is also a former cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons.

Established in 1864, The Bethel AME Church congregation originally shared a church building with the Zion Hill Baptist Church. Members built the current structure between 1871 and 1882.

Registers of Historic Places promote Bethel and Zion Hill as “home to small African American congregations.” The Cobb County Landmarks and Historical Society reports, “this church structure is threatened by lack of funding for repairs.”

Waller’s commitment to "Discovering God's New Possibilities" sets a positive tone for local kingdom building at a time of global economic uncertainty. Her “cheerleader spirit” may prove to be just the right prescription for economic healing on Main Street, USA. Just across the tracks from Bethel’s historical community, Acworth City officials are at work on a vision of the city’s future.

Road construction at Bell and School Streets offer evidence of “new possibilities” on the way. Bell and School Streets are at the heart of future enterprise. The State of Georgia has designated the City of Acworth’s Redevelopment Area as an “Opportunity Zone.” The designation allows any existing business or a business that locates into zone to apply to the State for a $3,500 job tax credit.

ACWORTH'S EMPOWERMENT: Mayor Tommy Allegood (front/center) and Acworth city officials value faith in their vision of the community’s future.  New possibilities are being discovered where Americans live, learn work and worship.

Local job creation is at heart of this community’s vision of its own future. Church and State working together is already adding value to vision for Acworth. Up the road from Historic Bethel is the Roberts School Community Education Center where YouthUSA is “discovering” common vision for Positive Youth Development. The Acworth Achievers after-school youth program primarily serves low income youth from the surrounding community. The program, run by the city’s parks and recreation department, partners with local schools to improve learning outcomes. At the same time, schools as well as churches struggle to meet needs with declining assets. Financial services professionals say that while lingering economic downturns can generate investor concern, they can also generate investment opportunities.

YouthUSA has been mapping assets in Acworth seeking answers to economic issues.  Acworth’s youth are like buried treasure for the region’s economic. BB& posted, “When the economy is in a slow-growth or no-growth mode and the stock market shifts dramatically up or down with little warning, what’s the best plan of action? The answer, in most cases, is “It depends…”


The most effective approach to economic inclusion is learning to earn.  YouthUSA’s approach starts with financial literacy and integrates diverse components—endowments, investments, insurance, savings for education, home, and small business ownership. Cross generational wisdom invested by caring adults offer insight on retirement, credit, charitable giving, tax and estate planning for a unified, coordinated strategy.

YouthUSA beneficiaries depend on partnering banks, charitable foundations and friends to value their futures as assets for economic recovery. Each qualifying youth commits to a vision of his or her own future as an asset and, therefore, not a liability to their community. YouthUSA’s expanded definition of community considers needs beyond geographic boundaries, connecting local needs to a wealth of resources. To partner with this new market for community reinvestment, contact YouthUSA at

Friday, August 10, 2012

In It To Win It!

YouthUSA winners offered positive alternative to negative values

by Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, August 10, 2012, Virtual -- The rapidly eroding race for President of the United States, fueled by negativity, banked by conflicting ideals and evinced by high cost advertising, pitting America against America has taken its toll on America’s future.

Two name-calling, back-biting rich guys, fighting over occupancy of a public housing project, brings shame and dishonor to that which WE THE PEOPLE envision as One Nation Under God. It needs to stop…NOW!

Somewhere in the quantification of yesterday’s national negative political debate, there’s a negative $15.9 trillion national debt. Unless someone can spin positive value from negative political campaigning, that practice impedes the process of making America work. It needs to stop…NOW!

Youth Achievers USA Institute, a 501c3 public charity, promotes an inclusive "vision of the future" for citizens in America's economy. The bottom line is clear to leaders with enough common sense to pay attention. Some youth have access to inheritance, endowments, or trust funds that offer a hand up in pursuing their American dream. Others still perceive theirs to be a dream deferred. YouthUSA hopes to demonstrate, on a small scale, that an inheritance can be developed for historically disadvantaged as well as mainstream Americans. The demonstration engages youth beneficiaries as “assets for independence.”

The Federal Assets for Independence (AFI) program provides five-year grants to nonprofit organizations and government agencies that empower low-income families to become economically self-sufficient for the long-term. Grantees provide financial education training on money management issues, and they assist participants with saving earned income in special matched savings accounts called Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). Participants use the IDAs to accumulate funds with the goal of acquiring a first home, post-secondary education, or starting up or expanding a small business.

Economist Yvonne Griswold provides leadership to caring adults interested in managing community assets where they live, learn, work and worship. Her own testimony as a YouthUSA beneficiary adds substance to hope for “believing I can achieve.” The 2007 graduate of Southern University of Baton Rouge holds a masters degree in economics and serves as an economist for the U.S. Government. As Task Force Chair for THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS, Griswold provides executive counsel on ways and means for sustaining “the whole village.”

YouthUSA economic development programs seek to engage local communities in developing youth as future “community assets.” Financial incentives encourage measurable Positive Youth Development by matching community investments in qualifying beneficiaries with program funds from the sponsoring 501c3 public charity.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of twelve federal departments and agencies that support youth, has created a definition of positive youth development: Positive youth development is 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.

New applicants to THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS and their caring adult supporters are being invited to join Griswold’s Task Force as part of a YouthUSA board leadership program. The Task Force will also discuss YouthUSA fellowships as part of a $5 million development fund.

“I’m so excited to be a part of a community of people who are excited about our youth,” said Griswold. Griswold’s enthusiastic interest demonstrates community reinvestment and challenges future leaders to “pay attention” when somebody wants to invest in you.

JOIN US NOW -- America's Future Begins Today at YouthUSA

Thursday, May 10, 2012

America’s Going Virtual -- Who gets left behind?

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, May 10, 2012, Virtual -- After her chainsaw incident in Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Tyler Perry’ fictitious Madea, placed under house arrest with an ankle bracelet, touches ever so lightly on the evolving social science behind virtual incarceration.

In real-life Washington, DC, the “Po Po” used virtual traffic management to “tag” an unsuspecting speeder. They photographed the license plates, sent a digital image via snail mail and demanded payment. Whether you did it or didn’t is a non issue. You pay the fine, and everything is just fine.

The economic reality of higher gas prices, overpopulated prisons and shrinking budgets is moving art closer to science and, science closer to faith. The National Science Foundation now describes a virtual organization as “a group of individuals whose members and resources may be dispersed geographically, but who function as a coherent unit through the use of cyber infrastructure.”

Sometime before NSF came to accept this perception, a faithful few of the world’s 1.3 billion Christians believed in a “substance of things hoped for” and “evidence of things not seen.” The Apostle Paul described an entity as such in his letter to the Corinthians. “Let there be no divisions in the church,” he wrote. “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

Paul’s letter reflected a vision of the future for a virtual entity believed by some to be Church Universal. In September 2006, organizers for Youth Achievers USA Institute followed a vision for virtual existence, parked it in a regional community identified by the federal government as The Atlanta Federal Reserve Region, and set up shop at

Some non-believers in the six-state region thought it far-fetched to operate from the Internet. “How do I get to your office?” they would ask. “Where should I send your mail?” Or, our favorite, what’s your local church affiliation…you know, where you worship, serve and pay your tithes and offerings? “Haven’t seen you guys in a while,” said one bishop. There was no appropriate response to offer.

The unfortunate reality for religious resisters to change can be summed up in the now familiar heartbreaker, “it’s the economy…stupid.” Once upon a time, burning questions about whether operations via Internet could be (or not be) mattered. That “crystal ball” revealed that 80.6% of 2.5 million African Methodists think the government should do more to help needy Americans. By comparison, four other groups surveyed included American Baptist Churches in the USA (67.1%), Church of God in Christ (76.7%), United Methodist Church (55.5%) and Atheists (65.4%), In reality, the government is doing more to help people in need. But there’s a disconnect between hungry folk, folks with food and folks with information to locate the chow line.

“Virtual organizations are increasingly central to the science and engineering projects funded by the National Science Foundation,” states a current federal grant announcement. “Focused investments in socio-technical analyses of virtual organizations are necessary to harness their full potential and the promise they offer for discovery and learning.”
The National Science Foundation’s VOSS program (Virtual Organizations as Socio-technical Systems) does not support proposals that aim to implement or evaluate individual virtual organizations, the grant applies federal dollars to scientific research, particularly advances in social, organizational and design. Political Scientists need to study how to develop virtual organizations and under what conditions virtual organizations can enable and enhance scientific, engineering, and education production and innovation.

Disciplinary perspectives may include (but are not limited to) anthropology, complexity sciences, computer and information sciences, decision and management sciences, economics, engineering, organization theory, organizational behavior, social and industrial psychology, public administration, political science and sociology.

Unemployed or underemployed church members may hold advance degrees in some of these areas. They have been hearing, “you are over qualified.” But the reality is that they have been looking in the wrong place. Many will migrate to ministry without a clue of the endless opportunities for that discipline in the global economy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Once Upon An Ebu

Retired Merck Exec’s cheerful giving aids family ministry

By Eric and Stephanie Stradford

AMWS, May 8, 2012, Philadelphia, PA -- Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, in a little metropolis called Philadelphia, there was born and raised a young chap who stuttered. No one really knew why the young chap stuttered. He always seemed to have so much to say and so little time to say it that the words got in the way. But there was one who always believed that this young tadpole would one day be a full grown bullfrog and hop by all the people who didn’t believe he could achieve whatever he believed he could achieve.

The young chap often shared a weekend with a kindly corporate library scientist who had matriculated through the historically black Howard University of Washington, DC and the Prestigious Drexel University of Philadelphia. The kindly corporate library scientist took a special interest in the young chap’s positive youth development. Although she had known the young chap’s mom all her life, she knew little about her goals, beliefs and aspirations. Afterall, what one person really knows everything about another?

The young chap lived in a section of town known to have presented economic security challenges. The community had given birth to urban renewal models, innovations in social economics, religious collaboration, and university expansion. But, with all its achievements, the community had yet to sustain social development and economic growth for a generation of distressed families.

Perhaps this young chap and his unique situation was “the man” that would bring change to his family and a community of distressed, disillusioned, disenfranchised Americans. “What would it take,” the kindly corporate library scientist wondered, “to prepare this youngster for a life more abundantly?” She already knew about knowledge being power. By her own example, she had demonstrated the value of a good education in making a life for herself and those she loved. She had been raised to trust in God and lean not to her own understanding.

As a professional library scientist, she knew books, in which a wealth of words had endowed her with critical skills. She could read, write, calculate, communicate, think reason and use good judgment. The kindly corporate library scientist was ready willing and able to be value-added human capital needed to impact this young chap’s “temporal economy.”

The young chap had never before heard this term, “temporal economy.” As a young tadpole barely exhumed from mommy’s womb, his story evolved from a family’s vision of his future. To his favor, the young chap got to spend some quality time with the kindly corporate library scientist . The young chap came to know and love her as “Aunt Ebu.” Not only was Aunt Ebu a corporate library scientist , she was the matriarch in a bloodline of empowered Americans known as The Walkers. In her best years, she had become the young chap’s strongest link to legitimacy as a fully endowed American. It was to Aunt Ebu’s credit that the young chap learned about the computer, and accessed an unlimited source for learning called the Internet.

She welcomed other family members who were ready, willing and able to carry on the values of her dad and mom, J.D. and Laurena Walker. She hoped that by telling the story of these ordinary people, their good works would live on through this young lad, his siblings and perhaps their children’s children.

One day, Aunt Ebu took young Niyko to see the movie, “Red Tails.” It was a story about the Tuskee Airmen, a group of African Americans who fought from the air during World War II. Niyko learned that the story had special meaning for Aunt Ebu because she had lived during that era. Her experiences endowed her with a greater appreciation for her parent’s teachings that, “With God All Things Are Possible.” She shared with Niyko her own recollection as her granny’s little black girl. She grew up at a time when African Americans were treated as second class citizens. She went to college, found work in corporate America and became a philanthropist so no black child would ever have to wonder whether they could make a difference. Aunt Ebu made Black history month real for Niyko.

She showed him the workbook from The Walker Summit on Family Values, an event which introduced Nikyo’s mom, his maternal grandfather and their siblings to J.D. and Laurena Walker. Aunt Ebu shared a story. She had Niyko read it. She endowed him with a chance to be an asset and not a liability to the Walker Family.

Niyko’s decision would give his life purpose. All of a sudden, it made sense that the computer could lead him to good information or bad information. It was up to him to decide. This was the day that Niyko decided he would apply to THE ANNUAL YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS, and begin to use the information to carry on the good name the Walkers had given to him.

He asked Aunt Ebu, “What is a Spiritual Goal?” She answered, “that means deciding to live your life as God wants you to.” “How do I know what God wants me to do,” he asked. She took him to church with her, and introduced him to some caring adult believers. “Niyko wants some help writing a Spiritual Goal. He is doing what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

One of Aunt Ebu’s caring adult friends asked Niyko, “Are you saved?” “I think so,” Niyko responded. The caring adult then said to Niyko, “Don’t think…KNOW.” This is like the most important thing you can do in your life. Make a decision right now to be an asset in God’s Kingdom and always remember this decision. “YES!!!!” said Niyko. I want to be an asset in God’s kingdom because Aunt Ebu taught me that ALL THINGS are possible with God.” She said, “God will never leave me alone. I will always remember that.”

All of a sudden, The God’s Word touched Niyko’s heart, and the words from his mouth brought credit to the Walker Family name. He knew that God had his back, and he was ready to be an asset to his Aunt Ebu’s legacy.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

High Court

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, April 2, 2012, Virtual – This week America’s Future called for some “sistah justice” to look at the story behind the murder of Trayvon Martin. As media minds struggle to lead the masses toward the race card, true believers are pressing for the prize of fair and equal treatment for all.

Celebrities like Judges Mablean Ephriam and Glenda Hatchett topped a list of prominent Americans called to serve on a “High Court” to figure out exactly how this Trayvon Martin tragedy happened.

“Some would like us to believe that race is the trump card in pursuing justice for Trayvon,” said Stephanie A. Walker Stradford, founder and president of Youth Achievers USA Institute. “We’ve been there, done that, and don’t need to go back,” she said. “When one citizen views another as less than, it’s no longer a race issue. It’s a threat to somebody’s national security. America has gone to war for lesser causes.””

National security can be generally perceived as the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic, diplomacy, power projection and political power. “In America, when one citizen perceives another as less than, he becomes a threat to the other’s economic security,” said Stradford.

Economic security today forms, arguably, as important a part of national security as military security. The freedom to follow choice of policies to develop a nation's economy in the manner desired, forms the essence of economic security. “One of the reasons we have a $15 trillion national debt is because we have not valued each other as equals,” said Stradford. “There are too many George Zimmermans to count and not enough children valued in the equation,” she said.

The assertion by the President of the United States, “And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened,” adds cause for “soul searching” by all Americans.

The temporal economy of any American begins with a date, ends with a date and is quantified by the dash in between. The value of Trayvon Martin’s life remains uncertain until America comes to terms with “its own demons.” A three-fifths compromise originated with a 1783 amendment proposed to the U.S. Articles of Confederation. The amendment was to have changed the basis for determining the wealth of each state, and hence its tax obligations, from real estate to population, as a measure of ability to produce wealth.

The Three-Fifths Compromise is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution: It was a compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the enumerated population of slaves would be counted for representation purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the apportionment of the members of the United States House of Representatives.

In 21st Century terms, this “less than equal value” characterizes the historically disadvantaged American perceived by George Zimmerman on the night that he allegedly threatened the temporal economy of Trayvon Martin.

Historically Disadvantaged Americans can no longer be categorized as minorities and minimized to low priority social issues in conversations on equal opportunity. In America, there is a credible threat to national security whenever a citizen’s economic security is threatened. That threat is real in the perception of a “minority” within a fair but equal society.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

America’s Future: “Show Me The Money”

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, March 29, 2012, Virtual -- Did the name of your personal banker change? What about the name of your bank? Who are the people managing that .02% interest rate on your FDIC Insured bank account? What should a community of believers expect from their partners in the Community Reinvestment Act? How do you partner with your bank?

The federal investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin, U.S. Citizen, is rallying diverse communities to higher expectations for “One Nation Under God.” Demonstrated interest by the Florida Council of Churches is compounding daily by believers across the United States and around the world. U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for “soul searching” presents an opportunity for ensuring “that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local…”
Pulling everybody together requires a plan, a process and some people who care enough to PAY ATTENTION! Youth Achievers USA Institute, co-sponsor of the, a collaboration of church and state, seeks to add value to American children, without discrimination.

The initiative examines a perceived value, assessed in a moment, by gunman George Zimmerman. Most Americans agree that a young African American life holds no less value than any other human. What about the American institutions? Is an African American mind still a terrible thing to waste? Are federal investments in the economic security of historically disadvantaged Americans actually reaching the people in need?

Federal investigators will need to look beyond Justice at the state-of-the-art Sanford Police Station on 13th Street, and into the adjacent historically underserved business zone (HUBZONE) for an historic perspective on “exactly how this tragedy happened.” Everybody pulling together means taking a closer look at causes, effects, and some unlikely threats to economic security.

Partners in are being asked to call on their bank, asking on behalf of America’s future to, “Show me the money.” Some banks are being asked directly based on federal funding they received on behalf of disadvantaged Americans.

Fifth Third Bank received a U.S. Treasury award of $6,000 for its support of Louisville Community Development Bank. Fifth Third Bank is a state-chartered bank with $53 billion in assets.

Fifth Third New Markets Development Company LLC (“5/3 New Markets”) promised to use a $100 million U.S. Treasury allocation to “invest in housing projects, educational facilities, health care facilities, senior care facilities, and business financing for economic growth and job creation (e.g., grocery stores, hardware stores, department/clothing stores).” With its U.S. Treasury allocation, 5/3 New Markets promised to provide a number of flexible and concessionary financial products, including debt with interest rates between 350 and 45 basis points below market. 5/3 New Markets will also dedicate a significant portion of its NMTC investment profits to finance grants to non-profits, businesses and developers in low-income communities.

SunTrust Community Development Enterprises, LLC (Enterprises) promised to use a $45 million U.S. Treasury allocation to make loans and equity investments to for-profit businesses, community-based organizations, non-profits, CDFIs and real estate projects including retail, industrial, office space, historic renovation, mixed-use, for-sale housing and community facilities. These transactions will be structured with non-traditional rates, terms and conditions, providing funds to businesses that primarily serve low-income communities and may not have access to traditional sources of capital. These products were not offered by the controlling entity prior to the Treasury allocation. The entirety of Enterprises’ allocation award was promised to be deployed into areas of higher distress.

PNC promised (twice) to use $70 million of a U.S. Treasury allocation to “advance its strategic approach to community development, providing innovatively-structured loans and equity investments to finance real estate projects, operating businesses, social service agencies, charter schools, early childcare centers, community facilities, and other CDEs with similar missions resulting in catalytic and sustainable impacts in Low Income Communities (LICs).” PNC’s QLICI’s will be the critical piece of financing necessary to complete a financing package, with flexibility to allow each transaction to be tailored to meet the unique community and economic development challenges facing our LICs (Low Income Communities).

Regions Bank was selected to receive from the U.S. Treasury, a Bank Enterprise Award of $22,459 for providing affordable housing development loans and project investments in distressed communities in Louisiana and Alabama. Regions Bank is a state chartered bank with $1.28 billion in assets.

First Fidelity Bank, N.A. was selected to receive, from the U.S. Treasury, Bank Enterprise Award of $112,500 for its support of MetaFund Corporation. First Fidelity Bank , N.A. is a federally chartered bank with $1.13 billion in assets.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

America Under The Hoodie’s Hood

Regional Banks Sought to Invest in America’s Future

By Stephanie and Eric Stradford

AMWS, March 27, 2012, Atlanta -- Banks and credit unions in the Atlanta Federal Reserve Region are getting a closer look at some causes and effects behind the murder of Trayvon Martin. They are being asked to join forces on community reinvestment that adds value to historically disadvantaged Americans.

President Barack Obama has called on the nation to do some soul searching. “…And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” Rapidly increasing support, sparked by a statement from the Florida Council of Churches, points to actions and attitudes that tend to undervalue some American children.

A “thorough investigation” of “every aspect” is likely to be a painful but necessary process. Such an investigation might have begun by arresting the alleged gunman. According to George Zimmerman, he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense during his neighborhood watch duty. It might be looking into an alleged cover-up by the Sanford Police Department, uncharacteristic outrage from the faith community, the resulting “temporary resignation” of Police Chief Bill Lee, Jr., and the self-extraction of Seminole County State Attorney, Norman R. Wolfinger. But, a thorough investigation to include “soul searching” calls for increased interest by church as well as state.

George Zimmerman perceived Trayvon Martin to be a threat to his neighborhood, his physical or economic security. A transparent “thorough investigation” of “every aspect” means examining Zimmerman’s perception of the victim as a fully endowed citizen of the United States of America – a celebrant of all rights and responsibilities.

Is an African American youth endowed with the inalienable right to walk or run to the store for Skittles and iced tea? Does that right protect him and others like him if he is wearing a hood? Zimmerman’s perception of reality, whether it was isolated or inherent, offers some insight for scoping a “thorough investigation” of “every aspect.”

In 21st Century America, the reality of a “thorough investigation” of “every aspect” means assessing a value, funding budgets, and a putting enough money behind the rhetoric of American justice to get to the truth. The authority for such an investigation is vested in the president. However, the responsibility for “soul searching” is shared by every citizen of the United States. is a regional Capacity Building Initiative which seeks to add value to all American children, without discrimination. Healthy eating is as good a start as any in getting America on track. As civil rights advocates call for America to do something,, a collaboration of church and state, must assess its needs and means, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” Banks and financial institutions are being asked to demonstrate support through their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act.

Political candidates for national office are likewise being asked for an inclusive vision statement on America’s Future. The potential for America working together is likely to be measured by corporate, community and government investments to economically secure America’s future.

The Capacity Building Initiative expands technical assistance and training opportunities and significantly boosts the ability of trust-worthy Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to deliver financial products and services to underserved communities.

Local Community Asset Mapping, conducted by Youth Achievers USA Institute, seeks financial, faith-based, corporate, government and community partners to identify needs and means for a sustained Economic Security Demonstration.

The White House is being asked to provide leadership for pulling everybody together -- federal, state and local -- to “figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.” No political campaign for national office can ignore an issue sitting so heavy on America’s heart. Healing America requires substantive engagement by All Americans. Efforts to occupy Wall Street, reduce the National Debt, run for president, or restore trust must address issues on Your Street, USA even if you live, learn, work or worship in “Across-the-Tracks, USA.”

The national investigation into Trayvon Martin’s murder should include “federal investments of interest” such as Amtrak in Sanford. Who is impacted when the train tracks divide a community? What about the abandoned and boarded-up Youth Build housing project divided by Amtrak’s tracks? How much did or will Americans invest in economic programs for youth in Sanford? What is the strategy for historically underutilized business zones (HUBZONEs) such as the one at the center of this national demonstration? How much of U.S. federal investment targeted for underserved Americans is sustaining Disney World in nearby Orlando? What about the new Amway Arena, home for the NBA’s Orlando Magic? What happens to the “hoodie” whose temporal economy can’t afford admission?

If Trayvon Martin’s life and others who look like them are to be valued as Americans, “One Nation Under God” will need to look beyond the call for soul searching and start PAYING ATTENTION to America under the hoodies’ hood.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What is the value of a young life?

Countering economic security threats on Our Street, USA
By Eric and Stephanie Stradford

Police presence, barricades, unused  reserved  parking, and private closed parking lots might have motivated more marching for thousands who peacefully pressed to Rally for Trayvon Martin.
Digital image courtesy The American Mentor Wire Service.

The Christian Recorder, March 23, 2012, Sanford, FL – In just a few days, a family will mark one month since the senseless shooting and death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American. In just a few days more, a billion Christians around the world will mark another historically senseless murder and outcome upon which they base their faith.

Local pastors, calling for calm behind a pattern of state-sanctioned actions, believe that Lenten Season can help more of Sanford’s 54,000 residents minister inevitable change for 1,342,946,000 believers worldwide. But, what's the story behind the story?

Depending on the news one chooses to believe, 5,000 to 25,000 people gathered for Reverend Al Sharpton’s “Enough is Enough” rally. Behind the headlines, a last minute change in venue, prompted by routine security intelligence, moved television lights, cameras and crews from the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church to Sanford’s waterfront Fort Mellon Park.

Last night, change came to Sanford. “In the interest of the public safety,” Norman R. Wolfinger, state attorney for Seminole County, removed himself from the case. Wolfinger’s retreat was the second sign of change. Earlier, Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. tapped press assets to announce his “temporary resignation” as head of the Sanford police. Lee came into office less than a year ago on the heels of another scandal that forced out his predecessor. Having lost faith and trust with Americans here, there is probably little hope that he will ever serve Sanford again.

But, for believers, ALL THINGS are possible. Good News of a resurrected Savior inspires and compels believers to increase their interest in kingdom assets. The same Good News mapped assets for independence in Christ’s prophetic assessment, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Historically, and in some cases statutorily, America has assessed the value of a young African American as less than that of a whole citizen. Some describe the all too routine profiling of African Americans and rules of engagement, such as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, as a threat to national security.  "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," said President Barack Obama.  "All of us have to do some soul searching."

Many in the crowd gathered here wore t-shirts bearing the phrase, “I Am Trayvon,” demonstrating solidarity with the cause. "I feel that we need an arrest," said Sybrina Fulton to supporters at the rally. Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin. "The temporary step-down of Bill Lee is nothing," Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father told the rally. "We want an arrest, we want a conviction, and we want a sentence for the murder of our son."

For the record, Trayvon Martin is one in a lineage of young African Americans profiled and sentenced to death before they could graduate from high school, vote, serve their country in the military, or go to college. For Trayvon’s family, the tremendous loss can only be felt by someone who has lost a loved-one to a violent crime. Unfortunately for them and their compassioned community, there has not been much time to grieve.

For Martin’s family, the nightmare began on February 26 when he reportedly walked to a nearby store for some Skittles and an ice tea. As of today, no one has been arrested for the crime. According to George Zimmerman, he shot Martin in self-defense during his neighborhood watch duty.

A capacity crowd gathered earlier this week at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church for a town hall style meeting. According to Reverend Valarie J. Houston, pastor, “several ministers have come together with civil rights leaders and community activists to plan a series of peaceful events advocating justice for Trayvon.”

Last night, Sharpton called for a “Rally for Justice.” Local, county and state law enforcement responded by deploying multiple helicopters in the air and troops on the ground. During the rally, demonstrators learned that Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee would "temporarily" step down as head of the department, which has been criticized for its handling of the fatal shooting.

"We did not come here for a temporary leave of absence," said Sharpton. "We came for permanent justice -- arrest Zimmerman now!" The national president of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, said, "The reality is that this chief had probable cause to lock up a man who shot a boy in cold blood and he failed to do his job." Martin Luther King III, while speaking at the rally, urged the crowd to pray for Sharpton and his family, in the loss of their mother, Ada Sharpton, who passed earlier in the day.

In his statement earlier in the day, Bill Lee told reporters, "I am aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation. It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process. Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position." He added, "I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to the city, which has been in turmoil for several weeks." Lee's decision came a day after the city commission voted 3-2 in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence.

Tonight, Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, Sanford, will once again open its doors for a “One Hour Prayer Vigil.”

Reverend Dr. Jamal Bryant, pastor, Empowerment Temple A.M.E. Church, Baltimore, MD, with Stephen Green, a former resident of Florida and student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA are coordinating national leaders for a Monday, March 26 “March and Rally for Justice.” Bryant and Green are sons of Bishops in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The march will begin at the First United Methodist Church and end at Sanford City Hall. The week will culminate with a “March Rally and Protest” coordinated by the NAACP on Saturday, March 31. Many other efforts are being planned, including a visit to Washington, DC on April 10—the day the grand jury is scheduled to meet.

In another case, according to the Justice Department this week, three white Mississippi men pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes in connection with the 2011 death of James Craig Anderson, an African-American man in Jackson, MS.

Deryl Dedmon, John Aaron Rice and Dylan Butler each admitted to conspiracy and violating the 2009 federal hate-crimes law in last June's killing of Anderson. The 19-year-old Dedmon pleaded guilty to state murder and hate-crime charges and was sentenced to life in prison. Rice, 19, and Butler, 20, made their initial appearances in federal court Thursday morning. They face sentences of up to life in prison and $250,000 in fines.

The men are among the first defendants to be prosecuted under the federal hate-crime statute that President Barack Obama signed in 2009 and the first to be prosecuted in a fatal attack. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez commented, "The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue those who commit racially motivated assaults and will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that those who commit such acts are brought to justice."