BOOKS 2017

A Marching Band at Allen University

Mr. Eddie Ellis Hired as New Band Director to lead the Band of Gold

 (Black PR Wire) Allen University today unveiled another vital element in the institution's steady resurgence.  A show-stopping marching band directed by an eminent band master is the latest initiative. The Allen “Band of Gold” will take the field fall semester 2018 with Eddie Ellis directing.

 The band will be historic, both in degree and size.  It will be the first marching band program at Allen in over a half century. The 2018 edition is also expected to march 100 members.  Reacting to his appointment, Ellis said, “I am delighted to become a part of the Allen University family and work with President Ernest McNealey in creating an exceptional marching band program that will help to grow Allen and instill spirit throughout Allen and beyond."

 As band director at Morris Brown College (Atlanta) for more than a decade, Ellis conducted the symphonic band and the Marching Wolverines, leading the band to a featured role in the (2002) film Drumline, which "brought show-style marching bands to the big screen for the first time."  They also performed in numerous music videos, and in 2001, Ellis' symphonic unit was the first African-American band to be featured at the Georgia Music Educators Association.

 Ellis most recently served an 11-year-stint as director of bands at South Carolina State University, where he conducted the Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble and the Marching 101 Band. Honors included three appearances in the Honda Battle of the Bands competition. Ellis holds a Bachelor of Arts in music from Morris Brown College and a Master of Music in Education from Georgia State University, Atlanta, Ga. He has also studied at Florida State University, the Cincinnati Conservatory and The University of Texas at Austin. 

  Mr. Ellis will join a host of talented musicians/professors engaged in public performances and leading student groups.  The “Band of Gold” will add to the existing roster of student performers comprised of a chamber ensemble, a concert choir, a jazz band, and a gospel choir.

Allen University is a private, coeducational institution located in Columbia, South Carolina. It is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees.

Controversial Libre by Nexus Is Taking on Immigration System. . . And Winning

By Curtis Bunn
Urban News Service

Justin Kongueni Matadidi’s first days in America were a far cry from the safe haven he had envisioned when he fled the Congo of Africa, fearing for his life.

Rather than basking in the glow of a new start, Matadidi was arrested by Immigration Custom Enforcement officials in Florida because of “faulty paperwork,” and detained in jail for six frightening months that, he said, almost broke him.

The inhumanity of jail, the threat of violence and, significantly, the hopelessness of ever being free—or being sent back to certain death in Africa—made it hard to eat or even sleep. Neither could his two childhood friends who also escaped a death warrant in Kinshasa because of their opposition to the ruling political authority, they said.

          America was his haven—or so he thought. He never imagined he would need to make a $20,000 bail—or have collateral to serve as credit for bond—just to seek the safety of asylum.

          “(Jail) was scary,” Matadidi recalled through translator Jeanine Memmbila of the Congo. “Couldn’t sleep or eat. I had no money. I had no hope. I didn’t know what to do. I was running from death in Africa, but if they delivered me back to the people of my country, it would have been my death. So I was scared everyday at what could happen to me.”

          After spending six months in detainment, from December 2016 through June 2017, Matadidi learned of Libre by Nexus, a rural Virginia-based firm that rapidly has evolved into a powerful—and controversial—immigration bond company.

          Libre by Nexus (libre means free in Spanish) posted the $20,000 bond, and Matadidi, who now lives in Atlanta, and his friends, were freed. And he said his world was saved.

“I had no family (here), no collateral,” he said through Memmbila. “I cried everyday. Libre came in like a mother. They gave me a new life.”

When he walked out of jail, the first person to greet him was Annette Padilla, a Libre Nexus case worker. “Matadidi was in tears,” Padilla recalled. “(He) came out crying, pinching (his) cheeks and saying, basically, ‘Oh, my god. This is not real.’ I picked up all three of the friends on different days and their reaction was all the same. It has been a long journey for them.”

Padilla sad she nearly was in tears, too, during the company’s mandatory “pick up” to help the now-free client got settled. “It made me feel proud of what I do,” she said.

          Similar stories have been played out thousands of times by Libre clients. Those who cannot afford bail found Libre Nexus to be a sort of justice angel that bailed them out just when hope had been all but lost.

          This action is not without a cost—or controversy. In three years, Michael Donovan’s company has changed the landscape of immigration bonding by bonding out around 12,500 people across the country and requiring them to wear a GPS tracking device on their ankle at $120 a week until the bond is paid off.

          Detractors—and there are many—say the company, which employs more than 200 people in 20 locations across the country, is taking advantage of a flawed immigration system that has court cases backed up for months, making millions off of those who could not afford bail. Donovan said, simply, that freedom allows the released the opportunity to live and work and pay for the tracking device, as opposed to rotting in jail. And he added: “We don’t care about profit. We believe profit doesn’t have to control the day.”

          Matadidi, 30, who was an engineer in the Congo, said of the GPS payments: “The money is nothing for the life they saved.”

While many have considered Libre as saviors, there are others, especially traditional bail bond companies, who bemoan the tactics. Some criticize that the company’s clients often struggle for work, making it a struggle to pay the $480 a month for the tracking device. There is no interest charge tacked onto the GPS monitor; clients wear it (and pay for it) until their bond is satisfied or case cleared.

          There have been complaints that Libre employees have threatened clients with a return to jail or detention if the GPS payments are not made. Erik G. Schneider, a former bounty hunter who is Libre’s chief risk management officer, refuted that claim.

          “We’ve never sent anybody back to jail—or threatened to send anyone back,” Schneider said. “The reality is that we want them out of the bracelets. That means they have paid it off and are going on with their lives. That’s why we work hard to help clients in any way.”

          Donovan insists his and co-founder Richard Moore’s inspiration for the company was forged during their own harrowing jail experience. While in college, Donovan wrote two checks to a northern Virginia hotel that were returned. He ended up being arrested on six felony charges, including grand larceny and forgery, among others.

          He spent seven months in jail because he was unable to make bail. He was freed only after pleading guilty, effectively killing his dream to become a lawyer.

          But the loss of a dream inspired another.

Seven months in jail “was my college,” Donovan said. “(Libre by Nexus) is all rooted in my jail experience. I’m trying to save the 19-year-old me. . . There needs to be bail reform. Our model is smarter about how we make bail available. This is not rocket science. The GPS system is insurance, but it allows our clients to live and work and to not be in jail. Mass incarceration is encouraging jails to destroy people. We’re happy to help, but horrified that we have to.”

Meanwhile, many of Libre’s employees have experienced jail, are immigrants or are the children of immigrants—factors that the company espouses as virtues because they relate to those they help.

Julio Rodriguez, a case worker at Libre in Verona, Virginia who is from Honduras, said he fled his country through El Salvador and Guatemala and spent three days in the desert before making it across the U.S. border in Texas.

That experience gives him sensitivity to the clients he first meets on the phone as they seek help to get out of detainment. “I take the job personally,” Rodriguez, 30, said. “I was brought from the shadows into the world. So I know what the clients who call us are seeking, and I can be there for them the way I know they need me to be there.”

Sergio Anselmo, another Libre by Nexus employee, said he recalls crossing the border from Mexico as a small child. He and his family worked in Florida, picking oranges and cucumbers before moving to North Carolina. He gained U.S. citizen but one of his brothers did not and was deported back to Mexico last year.

“If we had known about Libre by Nexus then, we probably would have had a better outcome,” Anselmo said. “But I go on my ‘pick ups’ and see people we have freed, people I have spoken to on the phone, knowing their story and how scared they are. This is the perfect way to help people going through what I went through.”

Still, the company has many critics.  Some clients have lodged lawsuits, saying they did not understand they were to pay monthly rate for the tracking device and they thought the GPS fee would go toward the bond owed.

“We are rescuing many from a system that is designed to keep them in detainment,“ Schneider said. “Most cases are asylum-seekers. They don’t have money. They don’t have collateral. They want freedom; that’s why they came to America. We don’t arrest people. We give them relief.”

Libre is fighting to protect its profile. It is suing BuzzFeed in a $5-millon defamation case for reporting, among other things, that Libre was under investigation by ICE.

While all this is going on, the company says it has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into a Civil Rights division, housing for felons and pro bono lawyers to adequately represent clients in court—and other projects that are aimed at giving clients a fair shot at freedom.

Additionally, Donovan, a former lobbyist, hires lobbyists to fight for immigration reform—odd for a company that exists because immigration system is faulty.

“We’ve created a paradigm shift in immigration release,” Donovan said. “People on both sides are the problem. No one has anything to gain by freeing people. Jail is dehumanizing. But the system promotes warehousing to control large numbers of people. . . We want immigration reform. We want the problem fixed. We are the disruptors. And we aren’t done yet.”


This November, Lite it Up Beard Oil is putting a new spin on BroVember by donating money to organizations that support the healthy physical, emotional and spiritual development of young black boys.

Typically in the month of November, men raise money for Prostate Cancer Research. However, in the United States, Black men are 25% more likely to develop prostate cancer than their white counterparts, yet are less likely to receive treatment due to access to care or financial resources, and benefit even less financially from mainstream campaigns.

“We’ve decided to take a spin on the month-long campaign that runs in November to focus on our youth instead,” notes Valerie Augustine, owner of the Lite It Up brand.

The BroVember campaign aims to support organizations that enhance the life skills of young black boys and build the community by giving them access to new opportunities. This, in turn, gives them the ability to choose their own paths so they don’t feel limited.

The initiative will start November 1st and continue until the end of the month. Lite it Up Beard Oil will be donating $2 of each bottle sold to the initiative.

Lite it Up will also be accepting donations for the initiative and providing more information to anyone interested in getting involved. The following organizations will benefit from the month-long campaign: Black Daddies Club, Cave of Abdullah and the Black Health Alliance to name a few.

About Lite It Beard Oil

Lite it Up Beard Oil is a subsidiary of Lite it Up Candles, Body, and Spa specializing in scented, self care, and body maintenance products using all-natural products ingredients. Lite it Up is located at 73 Kensington Avenue in Kensington Market in Toronto, Canada. To learn more, visit or contact us at 647-704-3009

About Mappdom International

Mappdom International is a privately owned boutique marketing company specializing in profit generating social media, digital marketing, virality and growth hacking for small businesses, celebrities and top name brands. To learn more, visit or contact us 1-866-826-1126

Offical Website Address and Social Media for BroVember:
@BlackBrovember and


-- Dr. Marvella Ford, who knows exactly how health disparities can affect a family, helps lead an effort to end them. --

Marvella Ford, Ph.D., an expert in health disparities and cancer prevention research at the Medical University of South Carolina, now holds a joint appointment as the SmartState endowed chair in prostate cancer disparities at South Carolina State University.

Marvella Ford missed out on a fundamental part of childhood: having grandparents to spoil and take care of her. They all died before she was born. “That’s a tremendous loss that you can never overcome. I grew up not having met or seen pictures of any of my grandparents,” she said.

She couldn’t even find out how they died. “I was told that no one knew their causes of death. This lack of information about something so important made me decide to enter the field of health disparities research, to try to better understand the reasons behind the racial and ethnic health disparities in this country.”

Ford is now leading the effort to establish the South Carolina Cancer Disparities Research Center, designed to do exactly that. It’s funded by a $12.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. Half of the money goes to the Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center, the other half to South Carolina State University.

Ford is the glue that brings the two universities together in her roles as a professor in the MUSC College of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, a senior leader at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center and the SmartState endowed chair at SCSU. She’s leading the project with Judith Salley-Guydon, chairwoman of the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences at SCSU.

When it comes to cancer, “our state has glaring cancer disparities geographically, socioeconomically, and in terms of race,” Ford said. “With prostate cancer, the death rate is three times higher for black men than it is for white men. The story is the same for women in South Carolina with breast cancer. The mortality rate is much higher for black women than for white women.”

The South Carolina Cancer Disparities Research Center, also known as SC CADRE, will be guided by the belief that race and circumstances should not keep people from enjoying as long and healthy a life as possible. SC CADRE’s goals include increasing SCSU’s ability to do cancer research, conducting cutting-edge cancer disparities research, inspiring a new generation of researchers to focus on cancer disparities and getting the general public more involved in cancer research.

Laying the Groundwork

“This grant will help us build tremendous infrastructure. The first piece is, we’re developing a new biostatistics and quantitative methods shared resource at SCSU,” Ford said.

“Shared resource” is a common term in research. In this case, it means a group of people who are experts in statistics and research methods who can help cancer researchers with data and computation. MUSC already has multiple shared resources at the Hollings Cancer Center, but SCSU hasn’t had one - until now.

“This is specific to cancer research center grants,” Ford said. Having the shared resource will give SCSU a much better shot at getting the federal government and other funding sources to pay for its cancer research. That, she said, benefits both SCSU and MUSC. “It really allows MUSC investigators to partner with SCSU faculty, because they have access to funding resources we don’t have, and vice-versa, so multidirectional partnering can take place.”

Increasing Focus on the Health of Black South Carolinians

The researchers will need good material to work with, and the grant is designed to give them that. “We’re establishing a new biorepository at South Carolina State and a clinical trials office in the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, where 62 percent of the patients are African-American,” Ford said.

Tissue samples taken from patients in the Regional Medical Center’s Mabry Center for Cancer Care will be taken to SCSU, cataloged and made available to scientists. “We anticipate this new biorepository is going to be one of the most racially and ethnically diverse biorepositories in the country,” Ford said. “It should be in very high demand by other researchers and private industries.”

One of the SC CADRE biorepository’s most important roles will be helping researchers identify differences in the biological pathways involved in diseases such as triple negative breast cancer, which has a poorer prognosis than hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. “We know that triple negative breast cancer is more prevalent in African-American women, but we need to understand more about why,” Ford said.

SC CADRE will also help researchers study nuances within the black community, including the health of the Gullah living on the Sea Islands of South Carolina. “We’ve done some very preliminary work with 90 breast cancer survivors in South Carolina. Our work shows that the prevalence of triple negative breast cancer seems to be lower in Sea Islanders than in blacks without Sea Island ancestry. We’re looking at biological contributors to breast cancer outcomes. That’s the kind of study we’ll be able to do.”

Finding the answers to such questions may benefit people statewide, Ford said. “This is a cancer disparities grant, but sometimes we forget disparities refer not only to racial and ethnic disparities but also to geographic and socioeconomic disparities. Our studies will include multiple racial and ethnic groups with different levels of education and income. We really want to improve cancer outcomes for everyone in South Carolina.”

Lowering AGE Levels

A third piece of the SC CADRE grant focuses on lowering the levels of AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, in prostate cancer survivors. A big part of that may involve changing their diets, shifting away from cooked meat to more fruits and vegetables. Researchers will also look at whether exercise and medications can lower AGE levels and improve people’s health.

“There is a big difference in levels of AGEs between blacks and whites,” Ford said. “Blacks actually have higher levels of ages even before cancer diagnosis. They’re linked with poorer prognosis and worse outcomes in prostate cancer. The idea is, if we can drive down the level of AGEs, we can make more equitable health outcomes for blacks and whites, and it may help reduce disparity in prostate cancer survival rates.

Buy-In from the Public

Ford said all of her team’s work is guided by input from the public. “We have community input at every step. Even in putting the grant together we went to our advisory board at the cancer center to get their input in how to proceed with developing the grant.”

The SC CADRE researchers created a community engagement panel. “It’s important to have the input of the public, especially when we’re designing clinical trials. They can tell us about how the trial might be perceived in the community. And when it comes to the end points that we think are most important, they may have other ideas we can learn from.”

Part of getting that community input involves letting people know that the researchers understand where they’re coming from, in terms of the burden of cancer in local communities. “We hear the pain. We feel the pain,” Ford said.” want people to know we are doing everything we can to conduct research to reduce disparities in South Carolina.”

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and 700 residents in six colleges (Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy), and has nearly 13,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $2.3 billion, with an annual economic impact of more than $3.8 billion and annual research funding in excess of $250 million. MUSC operates a 700-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized children's hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), Hollings Cancer Center (a National Cancer Institute-designated center), Level I trauma center, Institute of Psychiatry, and the state’s only transplant center. In 2017, for the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the number one hospital in South Carolina. For more information on academic programs or clinical services, visit For more information on hospital patient services, visit

CBC Chairman, Co-Chairs of the CBC Taskforce on Foreign Affairs and National Security

Issue Joint Statement on Niger

The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02), and the Co-Chairs of the CBC Task Force on Foreign Affairs and National Security, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), issued the following joint statement in response to the recent attacks in Niger.

“The early October attack that left four American service members dead in Niger has raised a number of important questions about exactly what happened, highlighted growing counterterrorism efforts across the continent, and emphasized the need for the Administration to reveal its policy toward Africa.

“During Monday’s press conference, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, confirmed that the U.S. has had up to 800 military officials in Niger, the largest American force anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, and divulged that there are some 6,000 U.S. troops across the continent. This revelation causes deep concern for the Congressional Black Caucus.

“The U.S. has made great gains in Africa across several administrations. These gains have included developing the next generation of leaders; investing in infrastructure projects through the Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC); improving trade relations through the African Growth and Opportunity Act and entrepreneurship programs; addressing a variety of health concerns through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI); strengthening democratic institutions; and supporting a variety of peace and security initiatives. 

“Our policy toward Africa should be multidimensional and robust, and should utilize all of our foreign policy tools, including diplomacy and development, to their maximum capacity. When defense and diplomacy work in tandem, we will be successful in aiding the second largest continent in the world.

“We call for a full investigation into the events that led to the tragic loss of four soldiers in Niger and a briefing on this Administration’s policy toward Africa.”

In Case You Missed It:

Sen. Warren Bloomberg View Op-Ed: Don't Let Big Banks Escape the Fed's Scrutiny

Bloomberg View Op-Ed: Don't Let Big Banks Escape the Fed's Scrutiny

By Senator Elizabeth Warren

The $50 billion threshold for stricter oversight should stay in place.

Community banks and credit unions face a lot of challenges today, and they make a good case for lightening some unnecessary regulatory burdens.  But instead of focusing on these smaller institutions, Congress is considering easing up oversight for some of the biggest banks in the country. This would increase the risk of another financial crisis.

In the aftermath of the crisis, Congress determined that banks with more than $50 billion in assets -- roughly the 40 biggest in the country -- posed an outsized risk to the economy. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act directed the Federal Reserve to apply stricter oversight and regulation to such institutions. The law was carefully drawn to force the Fed to impose tougher capital, liquidity, and leverage requirements, while it also empowered the central bank to make adjustments based on a bank's size and complexity.                          

But big banks want more. Their lobbyists have spent years urging Congress to either raise the $50 billion threshold to $250 billion or beyond, or replace it with a convoluted multi-factor test.

Both approaches are dangerous to the economy because they substantially reduce oversight of the biggest and riskiest banks. While lobbyists are pushing the idea that institutions with as much as $500 billion in assets pose no real threat to the economy, experts strongly disagree. At a Senate hearing in 2015, Simon Johnson -- a finance professor at MIT and the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund - noted that banks with as little as $50 billion in assets present an enormous risk because they tend to have "highly correlated portfolios." In a time of distress, several banks of this size could fail simultaneously, precipitating "a full-blown financial crisis."

The likely motivation behind the effort to change the $50 billion threshold is not additional lending, but additional stock buybacks, mergers and executive bonuses. Historical evidence suggests that if Congress scrapped these vital rules, any reduced costs would translate to larger stock buybacks rather than new loans. Scrapping the rules would also likely lead to a flurry of mergers, producing increased concentration in the banking industry and tilting the playing field even further against community banks and credit unions.

Before 2008, Congress weakened financial oversight and promoted short-term bank profits at the expense of the safety of the financial system. Those decisions helped trigger a crisis that cost millions of families their homes, their jobs and their savings. We shouldn't make that mistake again. The $50 billion threshold is working and it shouldn't be touched.

Read the full op-ed on the Bloomberg View website here.