December is not reserved for Christmas and Kwanzaa. Far from it. At this time of year individuals from our community receive the gift of knowledge–a diploma that signifies their hard work, determination and hopes for a brighter future. Two local institutions of higher learning bestowed this gift. (Top photo): Liberal Arts and Sciences students at MATC received their degrees during that school’s winter commencement ceremony at US Cellular Arena downtown. (Bottom photo): Black women graduates at Alverno College were bestowed Kente Cloths by family members who inspired them during the “Bestowing of the Kente” ceremony at the college’s Wehr Auditorium. (Photos by Yvonne Kemp)
Executive Director Victor Barnett mentors young men at Running Rebels. (Photo by Kenya Evans)
Running Rebels Community Organization received an unexpected holiday gift when it was awarded a check for $1,000 from Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s 2012 Days of Sharing campaign.
“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Dawn Barnett, co-executive director of the Running Rebels. “We heard that we were in the drawing, but we didn’t think we’d win because there were so many organizations in the drawing,”
Northwestern Mutual Foundation’s Days of Sharing campaign encourages Northwestern Mutual employees to nominate local nonprofits they care deeply about. The foundation chose 25 employees as winners out of more than 770 who entered. The organizations were awarded $1,000 to $10,000 by the foundation on behalf of the employee who nominated them. The 25 grants totaled $100,000.
Avery Harris, who submitted Running Rebels to the drawing and is a friend of the organization’s Executive Director Victor Barnett, has seen the positive work the group has done for the community. Harris attended Running Rebels’ annual banquet, and was impressed.
”These young people were doing wonderful things, and if not for this program might be out on the streets of Milwaukee getting in trouble, said Harris, systems administration consultant at Northwestern Mutual. They were given scholarships, others gave speeches and others sang and supported each other. It was good to see a large gathering of young people come together.”
The local nonprofit assists teens through rough patches in their life with the Violence Free program in 12 Milwaukee Public Schools and the Pipeline to Promise program, which connects teens to business professionals and jobs. “With Pipeline to Promise we focus on the 18- to 24-year-olds; we call them the lost ages,” said Barnett. “If they’re not in college, they’re just floating through life. They’re technically adults but not emotionally adults.”
Running Rebels, 1300A W. Fond du Lac Ave., has been renovating its building in stages since 2006. The nonprofit has added new bathrooms, replaced the old elevator and installed a fire protection system, according to Barnett. “We definitely have plenty of needs,” she added.
Though there is still a lot to be done, Barnett said the organization hasn’t decided what it will do with the grant money. “We’re very appreciative to Northwestern Mutual, and the money will be spent wisely bettering the lives of our young people,” she said.
by Kenya Evans
Each year millions of shoppers struggle to pick the perfect gift without going over their budget.
Restaurant gift cards have been growing steadily each year in popularity for the winter holiday season. A gift card is a flexible present that honors the recipient’s ability to pick their own perfect item. This has made it one of the most given and most wanted items. While gift cards were once limited to relationships that weren’t very close, you can now give these cards or certificates to spouses and children. Instead of trying to guess what they need based on their interests, you can simply hand over a pre-paid card that allows them to make the choice.
According to the National Restaurant Association, about 32 percent of consumers receive a gift card as a gift over the holiday season. Restaurant gift cards are one of the most popular types to give. Since the recession has had a freezing effect on the dining habits of many Americans, a restaurant gift card allows the recipient to enjoy a nice dinner without worrying about picking up the tab. This is part of a greater trend of interest in experience based gifts rather than giving goods. Experiences have a longer effect on your mood, and can be far less expensive than a new watch or television set for the buyer.
Almost all major chains offer a gift certificate or prepaid card option, including Red Lobster, T.G.I. Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse. Local, independent restaurants also offer these options because they know that it brings in guaranteed business.
Potawatomi Bingo Casino and Milwaukee Radio Group give Penfield the gift of a promising future
Like other families with children experiencing serious health issues, medical conditions, and developmental delays at Penfield Children’s Center, Joandy and her son Myles, age 1, have relied on Penfield’s Special Care Nursery to provide medical care, therapy, and education early in the Myles’ development.
Myles came to Penfield’s Special Care Nursery when he was seven months-old with profound medical and physical needs. He was born with Down syndrome, an atrioventricular (AV) canal defect, and tetralogy Fallot – a condition characterized by underdeveloped chambers and holes in the heart – resulting in him needing two heart surgeries, one of which was required shortly after birth.
Joandy knew that Myles not only needed specialized care but also had to be in an environment that would focus on his distinct needs and provide individualized attention. After her first visit at Penfield’s Special Care Nursery, Joandy knew that Myles would receive the best child care in Milwaukee from a warm, knowledgeable staff of registered nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), and care partners.
While at Penfield, licensed therapists help develop Myles’ skills as he grows by providing him with occupational, physical, and speech therapies. The Special Care Nursery also supports his family by encouraging questions about Myles’ development, helping with the financial burden, involving them in his therapies, and building a network with other families.
“I felt comfortable from the very beginning,” stated Joandy. “Each time I drop him off, it feels like I’m leaving him in the care of a family member.” Joandy further commended Penfield saying, “I don’t know what I would do without Penfield. The love and support we receive from the Center and our service coordinator is amazing.”
Joandy and Myles, and other families like them, will continue to get the support and resources needed from Penfield’s Special Care Nursery thanks to local community partners like Potawatomi Bingo Casino. Through a partnership with Milwaukee Radio Group, Penfield Children’s Center is one of 10 charities chosen to take part in Potawatomi Bingo Casino’s signature charitable program, Miracle on Canal Street. The program, with the mission to improve the quality of life for children in southeastern Wisconsin, focuses the joy of holiday giving onto those who are the hope for the future. Miracle runs through December 13, with funds raised from special bingo games and the generosity of Potawatomi Bingo Casino guests. Half of each $3 Miracle bingo game, played during each bingo session, goes to the Miracle fund, which totaled nearly $1 million last year benefitting 30 local children’s charities. The grand total for this year’s campaign will be announced at the Miracle Bingo Bash on December 14 at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.
“It’s children like Myles and his family that bring perspective to Miracle on Canal Street and the need to support these kinds of services in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Mike Goodrich, General Manager of Potawatomi Bingo Casino. “For 19 years, the generosity of our guests has shone brightly, and because of that, so many fantastic organizations have been able to serve the needs of a great number of children.”
Through hard work and determination, Myles will accomplish all of his milestones, just in his own timeframe. Myles celebrated his first birthday in August and is currently working on crawling with help from the Center and his family. With the support of Penfield Children’s Center and valued community partners like Potawatomi Bingo Casino, Joandy and her husband are excited for what the future holds for their son.
Penfield Children’s Center, located in Milwaukee, Wis., is a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to help infants and young children with and without disabilities reach their full potential through education, therapy services and family programs. The organization is named in honor of Dr. Wilder Penfield (1891-1976), a world-renowned neurosurgeon who strongly advocated early intervention for children with developmental delays and disabilities.
Potawatomi Bingo Casino is one of two casinos owned and operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community. It is located at 1721 W. Canal Street, Milwaukee, Wis. The casino is a showcase for high stakes bingo, offering some of the nation’s highest daily payouts. A popular attraction for local guests, tourists and tour groups, the casino features blackjack, craps, poker, and roulette table games, video and reel slot machines, off-track betting, and a variety of live entertainment. Potawatomi Bingo Casino is committed to raising awareness of the risks of problem gambling, maintaining a level of first-class customer service, while investing in its most valuable asset – its 2,500 multicultural employees. Through the Forest County Potawatomi Community Foundation and Miracle on Canal Street, the casino supports numerous local charities and community organizations. Driving directions and more information about Potawatomi Bingo Casino can be obtained by calling toll-free, 1-800-PAYS-BIG or by visiting the website at www.paysbig.com.
by Aja Chestine
Milwaukee born Ashlee Jasper is a young upcoming gospel sensation. She belts out notes with her powerfully mesmerizing voice.
She began singing in her youth choir at an early age, but it wasn’t until she was 15 years old that she realized God had blessed her with a divine gift.
When asked who inspires her to sing she smiles and replies, “my grandmother and mother. Growing up watching them captivate a whole church congregation was all I needed to follow in their footsteps.”
Ashlee sings neither traditional nor contemporary gospel music, but a style of her own. Her sound merges gospel, jazz and r&b soul music. Ashlee’s voice echoes the sound of legendary artists Nancy Wilson, Phyllis Hyman and Kim Burrell.
I asked her opinion on the subject. She simply stated “I don’t think I sound like anyone else, I have a raspy voice that makes my sound unique. “
Ashlee was shot into the spotlight during her sophomore year at Vincent High School when she participated in High School Celebrity.
To enter into the competition, you had to have full support of your high school, a 3.00 GPA and be a participant in some form of community service.
She met all three requirements easily. The competition was made up of 863 students across the state of Wisconsin. Week after week, Ashlee shocked and impressed the audiences that filled the Midwest Center.
After three months of practice, auditions and showcases, Ashlee was pronounced the winner of High School Celebrity.
Since then, Ashlee has opened for BET’s Sunday Best mentor & gospel powerhouse Kim Burrell. She has also been highlighted by organizations like Running Rebels, where she won the Free Yourself Award twice.
Ashlee recently pursued another dream, graduating from VICI Cosmetology School in 2012. Ashlee says “I’m the second oldest of 5 siblings and it makes me tremendously proud to be the first in my family to finish college.
No one told me I had to further my education; I’ve just always wanted to be an example for my younger brother & sisters as well as the youth I mentor at church.”
Giving back to her community is a huge part of who Ashlee is. She has volunteered at Luther Manor Nursing Home for the past 5 years, interacting and supporting the elderly. Due to her hard work and dedication, Luther Manor offered Ashlee a job.
Ashlee also makes return visits to Vincent High School to speak to students about putting their education first. This keeps her very much grounded as she pursues her passion & dreams.
When I spoke to Ashlee about her family unit, you could see the love in her eyes. She said her parents have always been extremely supportive of her dreams.
Her foundation and connection with the Lord grew and was strengthened by going to church 3 or 4 times a week with them. Recently, she met up with her biological grandparents, stating, “you can’t truly know where you’re going until you know where you come from.” She added the experience was a life changing experience for her that she didn’t regret at all.
On Saturday, September 29, Ashlee performed at Zion Rock Missionary Baptist Church’s 2nd Annual Gospel Explosion where she opened as the featured artist. She electrified the crowd with her dynamic sound. Ashlee is currently writing and recording music for her first solo project. S
he is also a part of the United in Worship Choir, under the direction of Minister Ky’eric Powell. I asked her how she juggles everything. She was very animated when she responded, “I haven’t gotten where I’m at alone. I’m supported by the AJ team: Agent Jason Rush, assistant Latoya Love, background singers Felicia Smith, Julianna Jasper and Jazzmine Finger; vocal Coach Ky’eric Powell, spiritual advisors Julian and Joyce Jasper Sr., and countless band members. She went on to express that, “without a doubt, I’m living the words I’m singing.”
‘The truly wise person will care and share and not reap and keep.’
The scripture readings in our church for this coming weekend are: Wisdom: 7:7-10, Hebrews 4: 12-13, and Mark 10: 17-30.
From the Book of Wisdom we learn that the greatest gift we can have is wisdom. In fact, wisdom is that gift which gives meaning to all of our life. We hear that “all good things together came to me in her company.” It is a great gift to know who we are and how much God loves us. The reading from Hebrews moves us along to the realization that the Word of God is alive and effective and penetrates into the very marrow of our bones. The Word of God is wisdom and it has the power to change our hearts and minds.
And if we have wisdom, if we have opened our hearts to the Word of God, we will live as wise people, knowing what is important and what is not. The priorities that we live by will reflect whether or nor wisdom has entered our hearts.
And the way to gauge just how much we have given ourselves over to The Way of Jesus is how we treat the things around us and the people placed in our path. The reading from Mark can help us to see how much we are still living for ourselves with Jesus thrown in on occasion when it suits us or if we are truly followers of The Way.
The rich young man in this story is US, no doubt. We may not be considered rich by the way we determine who is rich in our society. We may not be part of the one percent, but we do have resources and we do make decisions on how we will spend our money. In fact, there are Christians who really think that if God blesses them with financial resources way beyond their needs, that God really loves them! How sad.
The rich young man came to Jesus in pretty good spiritual shape. He followed the commandments perfectly. And Jesus saw something in him that caused Jesus to love him, just as he was. Jesus, I’m sure, saw the rich young man as a potential apostle. And Jesus made the offer, and, sad to say it was rejected. The rich young man didn’t grasp that whatever he was asked to give up could never compare with the riches 9that God had in store for him.
I said that we are the rich young man, no matter where we are on the scale of wealth. How we spend what we do have is a valid indicator of our faithfulness to Jesus and his Way.
The truly wise person will care and share and not reap and keep. And don’t be fooled by the straw gospel that says wealth is a blessing from God and an ostentatious life style is somehow a reward for holiness. Jesus said give away what you have and follow me. I hope we won’t drive away sad, wearing our riches as we close the door of our luxury car. We will never know what this rich young man could have been if only he would have stripped away all that wealth that prevented him from being wise.
The history of man on this planet from prehistoric times until now is a continuous whole. There is no fact, however remote, that does not have a bearing of greater or less importance on the destiny of the whole human race. Much has been buried, lost, forgotten but within man’s consciousness is a burning desire to know as much of as possible. Within the past four centuries this desire has increased until today there is no civilized land without a museum. In these museums are mementos of the past which though they might seem valueless to some, are precious to scientists, scholars, thinkers. On excavations in Upper Egypt I noticed that every spadeful of earth was carefully sifted lest some article of the ancient past be lost, even down to a bead. this book pays homage to Africa’s rich history and how it pertains to America.