Thursday, September 28, 2017

HBCUs Can #TakeAKnee For Puerto Rico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Standing For Those Who Serve

Eric Stradford, United States Marine Corps, Retired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 7, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Your American Dream: From Poverty To Pentecost

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

AMWS, June 4, 2017, Virtual – One man’s take on poverty is fueling national debate on the future of the agency he heads.  Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said recently that poverty is a “state of mind” children learn from their parents, and that a “certain mindset” contributes to people living in poverty.

Critics quickly pushed back on the retired neurosurgeon’s assessment, offering evidence of systemic realities contributing to the “condition where people's basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are not being met.”  Whether you rely on absolute or relative measures, poor is poor.  And, changing poor to not poor in America means adjusting somebody's “state of mind.” 

Each year, Christians around the world revisit that historic event recorded in Acts 2.  The spiritual event known as Pentecost, addressed historically unmet needs with a rather unique application of economic inclusion.  “And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need.”  

As one in 2.1 billion Christians, Dr. Ben Carson may be today’s best hope for laying “gifted hands” on a diseased mindset.  Redirecting H.U.D. from the bureaucratic maze it has become, to a systemic countermeasure for #EconomicInclusion is going to take a miracle—the kind of miracle believers encountered in Acts 2. 

Almost 50 million people in the U.S. are poor using what folks call the supplemental measure, compared to the 47 million using the official measure. Some five million Americans attribute their economic sustainability to food stamps rather than the grace of God. Depending on the news you choose to believe, children represent some 23.1 percent of the total population and 33.6 percent of people in poverty.  Jesus valued these community assets in his remark, “For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Business sources tend to approach the poverty problem in terms of absolute or relative.  Relative poverty occurs when people do not enjoy a certain minimum level of living standards. Absolute poverty is synonymous with destitution and occurs when people cannot obtain adequate calories or nutrition to sustain their physical health.

History presents evidence of success for eradicating absolute poverty.  The “state of mind” theory referred to by Carson, has been rejected throughout American history.  Whether it was Richard Allen joint venturing with Dr. Benjamin Rush to counter Yellow Fever, Hosea Williams teaming up with Martin Luther King to feed hungry folks or Barack Obama sharing history with Brother Joe Biden as “My Brother’s Keeper,” Americans almost always choose chaos over community.

“Compassion Capital” branded a George W. Bush era application to engage communities of faith in a national vision of collective work and responsibility.  The term, collective work and responsibility, is not new.  Research shows that this term is attributed to Day 3 of the Kwanzaa Observation, between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, known as Ujima.  It means to build and maintain our community together and to make our brother's and sister's problems, our problems and to solve them together.

Once upon a time, a $30 million Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) represented the first appropriated federal funds specifically targeted to assist grassroots organizations.  This fund expanded a 1996 Clinton era program initially established in H.U.D. as the agency’s faith-based and community initiative.

The intent of CCF was to expand the role that faith-based and community groups play in providing social services to those in need. The policy recognized that faith-based and community organizations are uniquely situated to partner with the government in serving poor and low-come individuals and families, particularly those with the greatest needs such as families in poverty, prisoners reentering the community and their families, children of prisoners, homeless families, and at-risk youth.

Older narratives confirm the disease of disbelief in pursuit of common vision.  In each era from the healing ministry of Jesus the Christ to the modern-day housing ministry of Ben Carson, a “national amnesia” inhibits forward movement. And, the American Dream, to some remains a dream deferred.  If the preacher invests the time, the believer will see the money it takes to close this latest chapter on poverty.