Really cool Juxtaposition tool

Hey, this is a really cool tool. Look at Beyonce!

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Pondering Black America’s future with Playa Dreamz by MITOGA

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America’s history with black people and their mistreatment goes back a long way. They say the only way to learn from the mistakes of the past is to know them and compare them to the mistakes you’ve already made.

Yet still, a lot of the same mistakes have been made. And there is a lot of anger, pain and frustration throughout black communities across America asking for their just due.

But Playa Dreamz, by local DMV product Mitoga, urges black people to embrace their culture, but also look into the future and demand more.

Playa Dreamz is the embodiment of the struggle for black people across America to take themselves and their culture seriously while also being able to enjoy things that could be looked at as a distraction.

Keeping up with the Kardashians, Love and Hip Hop, the Soulja Boy-Chris Brown beef? Mitoga says all of those things are beneath us and the culture, which he calls the “8th wonder.”

Using a mix of soulful funk and some nasty guitar riffs in the back, Mitoga raps Everything ain’t always what it seems, huh/they sell ya images and and show ya scenes, huh/ but tell me do ya know just what it means, huh?

That initial line at the beginning of the song lets the listener know they’re in for a ride filled with thought, action and potential consequence after decisions are made. Not all rappers use their bars for this train of thought, but Mitoga dropped dimes of wisdom throughout the track for listeners to abide by.

Simple things like supporting black businesses, settling beefs and making a difference in your own community. The goal doesn’t lie in where we have come from and what we have endured as a people up until now, but where the ultimate goal is and what we have to do to earn it.

For some people, Mitoga’s lyricism may sound a bit condescending. Some people may believe that one can appreciate both the lighter aspects of life while also digging into the tunnels of thought that are needed to continue to advance society.

That, in itself, requires a lot in an individual. But Mitoga is not arguing that one or another is required, but rather imploring the public not to forget that both are required for Black America to truly find the Eutopia that we feel we are entitled to.

This track asks for a lot, but it’s thoughtful and powerful. It promotes independence, black culture, knowledge of the past and struggle all into just under five minutes of cleverly constructed bars, a flowing mixture of delivery that feels like a fusion between early Outkast work and more recent Kendrick Lamar pieces. That’s a struggle for most rappers, but Mitoga handles it like a champ.

Listen to the track here:

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Local football coaches try to catch the deep ball on societal issues

The Gwynn Park Yellow Jackets look to the field as their ROTC squad present the American Flag.

The Gwynn Park Yellow Jackets look to the field as their ROTC squad present the American Flag.

On Friday, Oct. 7, The Gwynn Park High School Yellow Jackets and Potomac Wolverines were slated to play a football game against each other.

Danny Hayes, Gwynn Park’s head coach, prepared his team to face a tough challenge from a one-loss team led by Potomac Head Coach Ronnie Crump.

There was nothing spectacular about the matchup. Warm-ups were the same as usual. Players were catching passes, stretching and doing various drills. Players from both sides who knew each other from off the field exchanged pleasantries per usual.

But then the national anthem started playing. After that, the question of what is and is not normal depends totally upon who one asks.

Four students from Gwynn Park’s ROTC squad marched on the field with the Maryland state flag and the United States flag in hand along with two rifles. Both sidelines stood at attention.

The silence broke with a slight clank of helmets. The Gwynn Park players all raised their helmets in the air in their right hands. Almost at the same time, each player on the Potomac sideline locked arms  in their endzone as a declaration of their unity as a team.

“We didn’t plan it at all,” Crump said.

Sports are typically black and white – especially when talking football. Two teams line up against each other, they compete using various strategies and at the end of the game, one team scores more points than the other and wins the game.

But sometimes, these games can hold more than just a winner and loser. People are complex and athletes are people. Sometimes people have causes they feel the need to stand for, and athletes are no different.

Political stances in sports are nothing new. But they weren’t always the norm, either. NFL players did not customarily stand for the National Anthem until 2009 according to a report from CSN New England.  The NBA’s bylaws require players to stand on the court during the national anthem.

Since early September, when San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem during an NFL preseason game behind the killings of minorities in America, many athletes and coaches from different backgrounds have taken different stances on the issue.

The reaction has been a mixed bag so far, but the discussion on the subject and whether politics have a place in sports has been launched from what Kapernick did.

While that issue might be legitimate, Hayes said, kneeling or sitting during the national anthem does not really solve any issues. The flag “represents an ideal” for everyone, he said, and that ideal has to be respected because people die for it.

Danny Hayes pacing the sideline as his team plays the Surrattsville Hornets

Danny Hayes pacing the sideline as his team plays the Surrattsville Hornets

Ultimately, there are other issues that need to be addressed in better ways, Hayes said. For him, keeping religion strong with team culture is one of them.

It’s Saturday, October 15. The Gwynn Park Yellow Jackets are playing the Surrattsville Hornets — one of their main rivals because of their identical mascots.

At the start of the game, the Yellow Jackets show their patriotism with the traditional raising of their helmets during the anthem. After the anthem, there’s a loud cheer from the Gwynn Park sideline. At the center of it is Danny Hayes with the rest of his coaching staff.

Usually a player leads most huddles, but Gwynn Park’s coach of 25 years has his hand in everything his team does. As the huddle breaks, the bright yellow writing on his shirt is revealed. It reads “God has the final say!”

After a 35-15 win on the road against Surrattsville High School, the team bowed their heads and closed their eyes in their own endzone as Hayes led them in prayer.  Business as usual for Gwynn Park.

Gwynn Park Head Coach Danny Hayes wears his faith on his back while he is directing his team from the sidelines.

Gwynn Park Head Coach Danny Hayes wears his faith on his back while he is directing his team from the sidelines.

“The school doesn’t want us to pray,  but we do,” Hayes said. “We need to keep God in our lives. God is strength.”

Everyone may not believe in the same God, but prayer is uniform and helps the team stay together, Hayes said. The huddle is the same. And so long as team norms are not sacrificed for individual reasoning, players can say anything they want.

For Hayes, this has “nothing to do with politics.” Religion and belief is necessary for growth, he said. Respect for the flag shows respect for those who died for it. It’s all necessary, and whether it is accepted by others, it will continue.

Moe Stewart, a coach at Dunbar High School, said he and his team, coaches and players, are all different people and have different opinions about different things. Race, religion and other beliefs all come into the locker room and they are always open to talking about different things.

Just like Gywnn Park, Dunbar will pray after games. But unlike Gwynn Park, everyone is not always involved.

“We have Muslim kids on the team, and they don’t want to participate in our prayer,” he said. “Our team understands that.”

Everything does not have to be uniform, Stewart said, People are different. Whether a player wants to kneel or sit during the anthem or wants to pray differently, it’s their prerogative, he said.

Stewart  served in the military for 11 years and was a police officer for more than 20 years. He became a coach because he wanted to help young men change their lives. Part of that, he said, is “allowing them to express their beliefs” and exercise rights others have earned for them.

It’s the spring of 2015, Ronnie Crump is accompanying a few of his seniors on a college visit along with four other coaches. Their destination is the University of Georgia.

Upon arriving at their hotel, the group is denied entry at a hotel despite having a reservation. Their room was given to an older white couple standing in line right before their eyes.

“It was clear racism,” Crump said. The police were subsequently called after he became visibly irate and the group moved a reservation at a hotel a few miles away.

But what Crump, 45, noticed about the situation was that outside of a coach that was the same age as him, no one else thought anything of the situation. Everyone else was 23 and under. They didn’t know what happened.

Ronnie Crump speaking with his team after a loss the the Frederick Douglass Eagles

Ronnie Crump speaking with his team after a loss the the Frederick Douglass Eagles

Since that day, Crump has always made it known to his players that they can confide in him about larger societal issues. They’ll talk as a team — bringing issues out in the open.

“We have to talk about this stuff. Everyone does, not just athletes.” Crump said.

Reggie Broddie, the CEO of Concerned Black Men National located in Washington, D.C., said today’s youth protest because “they won’t take the injustices previous generations did.”

Because of their platform, people in athletics are on ground other people love to see but will never experience, Broddie said. It should be used to start a conversation.

Crump agreed. If they want to, people in athletics can influence different cultures. Politics in sports is not the norm. But from what he has seen and learned as a head coach and as a man, speaking up on issues is not only a right, “it’s necessary if you want it to be.”

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Growing up black in Journalism and my NABJ 2016 experience

I’m black and I’m a reporter. Those are two things that generally don’t mix.

Newsrooms around the country for news companies big and small are all filled with my white counterparts. They do good work, sometimes great work, and I enjoy reading them, watching them and having them disseminate the news to me.

According to data pulled from the Radio Television Digitial News Association, just 11.1 percent of television reporters are African American. And according to the latest data from the American Society of News Editors, just over 12 percent of newspaper reporters in 2015 were minorities.

So it’s safe to say I’m more of a minority in my workplace than I am in public. And that’s something that has left me quite uneasy and uncomfortable over the last two and a half years I’ve been working in the newsroom.

People don’t understand you. When you’re the lone minority in the editorial department, they come to you to talk about social injustice issues. They ask you “is this okay?” when a racially charged topic comes across the news desk and you’re essentially the weight bearer of the black community.

You speak for any and every black person, but at the same time you don’t. You can’t. It’s not possible. But that really is not something white men and women across generations could ever understand. And it wouldn’t be right to expect them to because they’ve never been put in that place before.

All I ever really want when I’m put in that position is for someone to understand me and the position I’m in. I want someone to talk to about it. Someone to understand my complaints and why I’m complaining. Someone who just gets it.

A majority of my friends are black, but still cannot understand the position I’m put in. Most of them are not in news, and the ones I do have in the business are typically working, not available to talk. We don’t see each other weekly, so things continue to build and build until they burst over into frustration and questions of doubt.

Really, what am I in this industry for? Do I belong here? Is this a place for a young, African American man? These are questions that I ask myself every single day. Despite being able to do the things any other journalist can do, these are questions that I cannot avoid.

So when the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists come to town, it’s a breath of fresh air. Hundreds of people — just like me. People who know my struggle. People who have overcome my struggle. People who I can bounce my ideas of and people who I’ve looked up to for what, really, has been my entire life.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to say I’m a reporter before.

I was only able to go to the convention for one and a half days due to work and school obligations, but being there for just a short amount of time, in my hometown no less, has left me with a sense of vindication. My work is validated by the convention, the people who I crossed paths with and the people who I’ve had fun with.

Hell, man. I was at a party with Roland. Martin. I dapped up my idol, Bomani Jones. I introduced my self to Jemelle Hill. I became an acquaintance of Eric Barrow. I held Michael Wilbon up in a hallway despite him clearly being in a rush. And he had a smile on his face the entire time.

I’ve seen people this weekend I never thought I’d be able to hang with. Wesley Lowery, the Washington Post reporter who has become legendary over the last two years with his work on police brutality and accountability in this country. J.A. Adande, a vetted NBA reporter, one of my idols, was in the same room as me. Kevin Merida, a legendary editor from his days at the Washington Post and now at ESPN’s The Undefeated, hosted a party I was at.

This has been an unbelievable experience. I’ve been star struck the entire time I’ve been here and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve never been in a room with so many prominent black figures before. It’s fine to feel the way I feel.

After I shook hands with Michael Wilbon, I couldn’t move. I didn’t know how to react. I had no clue what to say to him other than I was a big fan and admired his work. His time was short with me, but the small gesture of calling me his brother and telling me to “keep it up” — that is timeless. I will remember that moment forever.

And so the next time I have those questions about whether this is worth it and if I belong, I’ll just remember those words. “Keep it up,” Wilbon said. That’s exactly what I’ll do.

I have a long way to go before I reach the level of my idols. They’ve put a lot of skin in the game and made a lot of sacrifices to get this far. That, I believe, is the next step for me in the process.

Improvement knows time, but it does not know age. My goals have been set — they’ve been right in front of my face throughout this weekend. I know where I want to go and I know what I want to do. And now, I know exactly why I’m doing it.

I’m currently running on a nap and three hours of sleep from last night’s experiences, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Tonight, I’ll have one last chance to brush shoulders with my idols again in my hometown. And I’ll make the best of it — until next year in New Orleans when, God willing, I can make someone feel the same way I do on this night.

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A Thankless Service: A profile on the Maryland Veteran’s Museum

Southern Maryland does not look like it has much to the naked eye, but digging deeper within the region’s rich history can be quite rewarding. The Maryland Veteran’s Museum in Newburg, Md., just beyond the Potomac River, is one of those treasures built from the community.

The museum, which receives both monetary and tributary donations from the surrounding community, is recognized as the lead exhibit on the Maryland Garden and Pilgrimage tour by the state government.

The thought of turning an old high school and a former police academy into a museum recognizing not only veteran history, but American history, that can be hard to fathom according to museum President and former Vietnam veteran Larry Abell. But, with the community’s help, he said anything is possible.

Abell started off as an architect for the museum but rose into the rank of president after the passing of Colonel Donald Wade, who was a Charles County school board member. As the museum continues to grow, Abell said, he wants exhibits to become more inclusive and more interactive.

“It’s hard to go against American history. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s our history and we own it,” Abell said. “I want to continue to help the museum grow and reflect that.”

But while the museum’s growth is an issue in itself, maintaining the museum and drawing consistent traffic may be more significant. Abell, with the help of an volunteer-only staff of 12 people, continue to maintain the property and spread word about it throughout the county. However, Abell said, despite all the promotion, having consistent traffic is something they have not been able to accomplish yet but would like to do.

Still, he said, the museum has grown from a project that initially had investors more than $200,000 in debt to what Abe Kennedy, a volunteer historian and former Vietnam Veteran, said is a facility appraised at more than $1 million.

“Our goal is to continue to grow and not have to rely on volunteers so much,” Kennedy said. “Eventually, I think we’re going to do that.”

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Steven Adams’ Monkey Business not a big deal

Racism is a problem in this country. It always has been. It may well be a problem for the rest of eternity.

So when Steven Adams refers to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as “quick little monkeys,” yeah, some eyebrows are going to be raised.

By now you’ve seen Adams’ comment and you’ve read his apology. Which, on the surface, it seems sincere. His explanation, while not being an excuse, is that he is from New Zealand and because of that he made a poor choice of words.

And it makes sense. Although New Zealand has had its own racial tensions in the past, racism is explicitly banned in the country after the Human Rights act of 1993 was passed. Racial tensions do not often arise in New Zealand because of the bill and the country has one of the better handles around the world on racism.

But lets call it for what it is. What Adams said was bad. That’s something that cannot, under any circumstances, happen. Let alone on national television. The racial tensions the United States has had over the last, I don’t know, four centuries are well documented around the world. The language used to degrade human beings, particularly black human beings, is very well documented. Among that language is the loaded term “monkey.”

With that being said, racism is about intent. Did Adams intend to be racist? I’m not sure. Adams seems like a good person. He’s never had any situation like this and, frankly, doesn’t have many podium games where someone is looking for comment from him in particular.

But I’ll also say this: While Adams may not be a racist, we should not be so quick to jump to the conclusion that his culture had something to do with his poor word choice. Because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen racism affect people all over the world. And, sure, New Zealand does have laws against all types of discrimination, but that does not mean racism does not exist in the country. Adams may well be one of those racist people.

We can only judge off of what we have, and all we have is his one mistake. He was obviously searching for something to compare the Warriors’ guards to. Their quickness is quite a feat to behold. But just after the heat of battle, it’s probably tough to come up with the proper description for that on the fly. That’s why athletes are taught to use cliches when dealing with the media. Candor and transparency can often lead to disagreements and controversy in these situations.

I’ll be honest — as a black man, I did give a side eye to my television screen during the interview. But that’s because it’s what I’ve been programmed to do. Skepticism and cynicism are embedded in me because of my country’s history, so for those of you who ask if the cause for concern is necessary, there’s your answer.

But Adams should not be considered a racist because of  one utterance. One mistake does not change the color of one’s character. At least it shouldn’t. It honestly does not matter what people think of him on the outside. He and his teammates know what his true colors are and we cannot claim to be experts on that.

And, look, most people are not even bothered by this. They shouldn’t be. Our sensibilities are that of our own. If someone is bothered by it, I can’t blame them. The country’s history is the source of that. But if you’re not, that’s fine too. There’s nothing that says you have to be.

J Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic said it well enough. What Adams said doesn’t really mean anything, and no one should be able to tell you it does — especially not in this situation where mainstream white media are quick to flaunt their support of diversity on something that ultimately doesn’t matter.

But at the same time, we cannot make judgement one way or another on who Adams is as a person because of this. Quite frankly, we shouldn’t care. The bottom line is that there are bad people who good things happen to every day. How we feel about those people are our choices and our choices alone.

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Adam Silver backed the NBA into a corner, but it was the right thing to do

In March when North Carolina legislators passed an anti-LGBT law requiring transgender North Carolinians to use public restrooms according to whatever gender is originally on their birth certificate, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took somewhat of a hard stance and said, because of the legislation’s inherent discrimination, the NBA and its owners would consider moving the All-Star game slated to be in Charlotte, N.C. next season.

Well, that was fun while it lasted. During owner’s meetings prior to the start of the playoffs, NBA owners discussed all league business. What wasn’t among their discussions, however, was potentially moving the All-Star game

According to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, Silver remained hard on his stance that the law is problematic, but said he’d rather maintain an open dialogue and engage with legislators to move toward change.

Obviously, this does not close the door to moving the All-Star game, which six senators from different states have requested Silver do.  Silver backed off of his stance of moving the game a bit with his latest comments.

Although it’s disappointing, Silver did not really have many options in this situation.

We’ll get into that, but first, lets dissect this bill.

According to the bill, which you can read here, the piece was drafted to create “consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations.”  In other words, the bill is requiring businesses, educational facilities, recreational facilities and other public facilities to mandate people use labeled bathrooms based on their biological gender.

Upon special request,  agencies may make special exceptions under this law such as single-use bathrooms for individuals rather than multi-use bathrooms. However, under no circumstances, according to this law, may a trans person use a bathroom of the sex opposite of their biological gender.

Despite North Carolina legislator’s assertions otherwise, the addition of this language in the bill is discriminatory by nature. It essentially stigmatizes those in the trans community and puts them in a dangerous, uncomfortable situation where an unnecessary spotlight shines on someone who never asked for it.

With the push back from the public around the nation on the bill, some legislators from North Carolina have stated they’d be willing to vote for a repeal on the law. N.C. House Democrat representative Larry Bell said, during an NPR interview, he’d be willing to vote to repeal it and other representatives would follow suit.

I think with the outcry, that is a possibility. I think a lot of people, since they were rushed into it, would probably reconsider and probably say we don’t need the bill at all. I mean, which is my position. I don’t think we needed it at all.

-Larry Bell

So, the public has spoken. And it’s obvious there’s a push against this bill. Along with the NBA, corporations like Pepsi, stars like Bruce Springsteen and many other notable figures have made statements against the bill and have cried out for inclusiveness.

And they’re right to do so. There’s no place for discrimination, in any shape or form, in America. This bill is problematic, as Silver said, and needs to be repealed. Beneath the layers of the legislation this is just another way for business owners to keep LGBT patrons and employees from using their facilities.

Silver isn’t the commissioner for those who want to separate sports and politics. He played an influential role in removing Donald Sterling, former Los Angeles Clippers’ owner and noted racist, from his ownership stake of the team. He also laid the hammer down on Danny Ferry, former Atlanta Hawks general manager, for just reading a racist scouting report on Luol Deng.

Clearly, Silver and the NBA have set a tone of inclusion. Intolerance hasn’t been tolerated in the NBA up until this point. And Silver did the absolute right thing by taking a stance against N.C.’s HB-2 and saying he’d consider moving the game.

But this probably is not a fight Silver can win just by simply moving an exhibition game. Sure, moving the All-Star game is a noble stance. But it’s not quite that simple. Silver said as much during Saturday night’s playoff opening night contest between the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Well, first of all we have 10 months before the All-Star game takes place in Charlotte. And it’s more complicated for us than a concert, for example.

And we have a team in Charlotte, North Carolina. And I’m not even sure what statement we would be making by, in essence, cutting and running now, and leaving our team in Charlotte. And so, for us, with a team in Charlotte, we want to work with the business community and with elected officials, frankly, to change the law.

But we didn’t think it would be productive to set ultimatums. So, we want to work, we want to engage with the people of North Carolina. And work towards moving away from what is problematic right now for the league.

The door is still open to moving the game. But at this point, it seems like it a bit unlikely. It would be noble, and frankly, the right thing to do for Silver to move the game. Tons of cities would be willing to host the game on the fly. They could even host in Los Angeles one year head of schedule.

Silver’s approach here is thorough and meticulous. So what if he moves the game? If the Charlotte Hornets are still playing in North Carolina, what has he really done? Sure, he’s made a grand statement by moving the game, but Charlotte will still rake in NBA dollars from the professional basketball team playing in town.

The NBA is anchored to the city and the state by the team. So what is the solution here? Moving the Hornets as well? Over one bill? I doubt Michael Jordan, a man who once noted that “Republicans buy shoes, too” when asked about a political endorsement, would be willing to pack up and leave his home state where his money is anchored just for this piece.  As awful as the bill is, it’s unlikely things would get to that point.

And lets not hesitate to think about how this affects North Carolina citizens, business owners and employees. Many people in the state disagree with the foundation of the bill and citizens did not vote on it. Should the game be moved, millions of dollars will be removed from the common man’s pockets, and that’s never a good thing.

But this is what protest is, right? Someone has to pay for the atrocities being done by this bill, and taking commerce away from some entity is normally the prime way to do it. And it’s perfectly fine for people to choose not to engage in the All-Star festivities should the law persist and the game remain unchanged.

But at the end of the day, with as many grand stands as Silver has taken so far in his tenure as the NBA’s commissioner, these owners and this league still bleed capitalism. It’s a shame that this is so, but it’s a reality we must deal with. It’s how people have to survive in this country and the NBA is no different.

Silver said he does not want to deal with ultimatums here, but should the law persist that is exactly what he’d be dealing with. Taking a hard stance here was the right thing to do, but Silver is also doing the right thing by exercising patience with the law and giving the state time to change things.

Should they not? Silver has to take action. But crossing that bridge at the right time is important. Change does not come overnight and bigotry does not dissolve from punishment alone. With his comments, Silver clearly understands this and, hopefully, the NBA can play its part in resolving this situation.

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Grandma’s Collectibles

Everyone has a grandmother, right? Here’s mine. I took hundreds of photos of my grandmother today as part of my second project for Visual Storytelling and here’s how the gallery came out.

I’m not a professional at this point, but I think they came out alright. Have a look. I’m extremely proud of this because this is a person who helped raise me. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m pretty sure my grandmother has the heart of one.

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Can too much development be a bad thing in Prince George’s County?

The MGM casino in the National Harbor is nearing completion. Via Candace Rojo-Keyes

The MGM casino in the National Harbor is nearing completion. Via Candace Rojo-Keyes

Prince George’s County will see economic development projects reaching the value of nearly $6 billion. But some citizens around the county are questioning whether that is the best thing to happen for its citizens.

Prince George’s County, like the rest of America, was hit hard by the economic downturn. But with multiple economic development projects on the horizon, the county could see a turnaround fairly soon with multiple economic development projects on the horizon.

But some county citizens say that while there are positives to the economic development spurring around the county, there may be some citizens who will be priced out of their homes because of it.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD OF THE RECESSION

According to real estate data provided by Long & Foster, Prince George’s County homes once had a median sales price of $340,000. Today, median home values in the county sit at $240,000.

In 2011, the median sales price of homes in the county were just $150,000 – which is the lowest the county has seen over the last 10 years according to the data.

PGCOUNTYHOUSING

Stats made available via Prince George’s County’s office of budget and finance

Having the county’s home rates at where they currently stand is not necessarily a bad thing Stanford Fraser, a long-time county resident, said in a phone interview.

Fraser said home affordability could be a big concern for the county with many new projects in the fold, but having prices stabilized where they are may help keep housing affordable for those in Prince George’s County.

“Because of the foreclosure issues there are still a decent amount of people with homes still ‘underwater’ or home values that haven’t increased,” Fraser said.

Tom Himler, deputy chief administrative officer of finance and budget for County Executive Rushern Baker III, said Prince George’s County’s foreclosure rate is still among the worst in the state at with one home in every 396 being foreclosed on.

Families who have lived in the county for decades have voiced their struggles, Delman Coates, a senior pastor at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church and a social advocate, said. They have been struggling with foreclosures “for years,” he said .

“There is concern about the gentrification that we’ve seen in Washington, D.C. stretching and reaching into Prince George’s County,” Coates said in a phone interview.  “People are concerned about neighborhood conversion plans leading to displacement.”

Growth and development are good, Coates said, for Prince George’s County. But having it at the expense of low and middle income families in Prince George’s County cannot happen, he said.

DO RESIDENTS HAVE TO LEAVE THEIR HOMES?

It does not have to be that way and should not be that way, Fraser said. Prince George’s County’s government must address those concerns, he said, by examining their zoning policies and principles.

Gone are the days where single families are moving into the county and searching for single family homes, Fraser said. Instead, he said, the market for millennials in Prince George’s County is increasing and more multi-family homes and apartment complexes are in development.

Yolanda Muckle, a Long & Foster real estate agent based out of Prince George’s County, said in a phone interview the county’s improving assessment rate and the increase in economic development will likely raise the prices of homes in the county.

“There are a lot of areas where there are a lot of foreclosures, but unless they have to do a short sale, they have no reason to leave” -Yolanda Muckle, Long & Foster Real Estate.

There have not been any solid projections on home values made from Long & Foster or the county, as of yet, both Himler and Muckle said. But based on the data gathered from previous years, Muckle said, it is conceivable that there will be an increase in home prices.

“You have buyers out there looking at houses that are not necessarily on the market yet. That naturally moves prices up because of demand. And Prince George’s is an attractive place,” Muckle said.

Just over the horizon in the next ten years, the county will see multiple multi-billion dollar projects coming in.

The $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor Casino is scheduled open in May of 2016, the $2.45 billion Purple Line light rail project construction is slated to begin late next year and the county could potentially be awarded the bid for the new $1.2 billion FBI facility the General Services Administration is looking for. And the county expecting to get approved by the state a $650 million Regional Medical Center in Largo.

All of those projects factor in to a buyer’s market, Muckle said, and make the county a place with “a lot of different fields and areas” to live, she said. And an increase in home prices does not mean citizens will be priced out, she said.

“There are a lot of areas where there are a lot of foreclosures, but unless they have to do a short sale, they have no reason to leave” Muckle said.

THE GOVERNMENT STEPS IN

Despite that increase in people moving into the county, though, their tax returns only have an average income of just over $41,000 according to governing.com’s data. And according to data gathered from the Census Bureau, the median income for residents in Prince George’s County is $73,623.

Prince George’s County Council Chairman Derrick Leon Davis is aware of the economic development sprouting up throughout the county and is preparing for it.

Purple Line

The path of the Purple Line, tentatively scheduled to begin construction in late 2016. Via the Maryland Transportation Authority

“We have some of the most affordable housing from single families to multi families,” Davis said. “What we need to look at is how we grow in Prince George’s County so that all of the people in this region who hear about our story have a place to be.”

According to housing market indicators retrieved from Himler, the county’s median home sales price is less than Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County, Washington Fairfax County – all regions bordering Prince George’s County.

HomeVals

Via Prince George’s County’s office of budget and finance

Himler said there have already been initiatives put forth by the county government to keep the housing in Prince George’s affordable.

“The County provides up to $10,000 in assistance for homeowners in need of emergency funds to remain in their homes under specific conditions such as sickness, loss of work and etcetera,” Himler said.

In addition to home ownership assistance funding, Himler said, the county provides homeowner assistance in restructuring mortgages. They also partnered with the state on a “Triple Play” home buyer assistance program.

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TEDx Youth Speakers empower Washington’s youth with Independence

 

Speakers from around the country came to Washington, D.C. to speak with youth on independence.

Speakers from around the country came to Washington, D.C. to speak with youth on independence.

If the goal is to empower today’s youth with a sense of individuality and independence, the speakers at TEDx Youth in Columbia Heights did just that with their audience at today’s Tehnology, Entertainment and Design  talk. 

As they leave high school and ponder how the rest of their lives are going to pan out, they often do not know how to address that question and operate independently while doing it.

Willie Witte, a “professional road tripper”, artist and film director, said as he grew up in Northern Idaho he had no clue who he would be or how his life would play out. He said as soon as he graduated from high school he went to work in construction because that is what “was expected” of him.

However, he said, he had a breakthrough when he thought about his future and “freaked out.” He left home in Idaho to figure himself out and what he wanted to do, not what others wanted.

“No matter who we are in society, you always have noise from certain people, the media, the people around us and sometimes our family, telling us what we’re supposed to be doing,” Witte said. “From the day we’re born we’re all set to be on one assembly line or another.”

But the youth of today do not have to be stuck on that assembly line, Witte said. They are free to do what they want and find their own destiny–even if they “get lost” while searching.

The audience is building as TEDx prepares their speakers

The audience is building as TEDx prepares their speakers

Getting lost in searching for yourself is a good thing, Witte said, because students always learn more about themselves and about the world while searching for themselves.

TEDx talks are independently hosted by organizers in local areas to create ideas and discussion around different topics normally involving technology, entertainment and design. Today’s topic was independence.

Witte said it is alright for the youth to feel that they are lost. They should have questions about who they are and how they will move into the future.

“In fact, I think that’s how you should feel,” Witte said.

Ruchit Patel, a 17-year-old research intern from New Jersey, said independence comes from always searching for more answers and how to solve new problems. The youth attending today’s talks must seek knowledge, he said, and do advanced work to find independence.

Patel, who is currently a research intern at the Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, said that despite being just 17, he has interned over the last two summers at different research organizations.

There is a “stigma,” Patel said, when it comes to finding independence at such a young age. Many teenagers and young people are denied jobs and opportunities because organizations will often associate age with experience, he said.

However, Patel said, experience is not created from age. It is created by the activities any individual does within their field.

“I would spread my resume around and some professors would be like ‘Oh, we don’t take high school kids’,” Patel said. “Age isn’t always just about knowledge. It’s about bringing in pure perspective.”

But to foster independence an individual has to be able to think critically, Michael Lai, the lead on student outreach at Minerva Project, said.

The Minerva Project is a startup university seeking to foster more critical thinking and independence in a collegiate atmosphere.

Michael Lai is explaining the Minerva project and critical thinking to the crowd.

Michael Lai is explaining the Minerva project and critical thinking to the crowd.

Lai said Students travel with their cohorts to to San Francisco; Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Seoul, South Korea; Bangalore, India; Istanbul, Turkey; and London, England.

Many colleges will throw students into a “backyard swimming pool” with water wings, Lai said, and offer more help to students. At Minerva, however, he said, students are thrown into the ocean.

“For us, we throw them into the ocean and give them a really nice surfboard. That is what the real world is like,” Lai said.  “They’re in these cities where they’re outside of their comfort zone all the time and building independence.”

Rahm Mohan, the father of Isvari Mohan who participated as a speaker, said that, like Patel, his daughter developed an independent lifestyle at an early age. She knew what she wanted to do early on, he said, and acted quickly to make things happen.

Isvari Mohan, who is studying law at Georgetown and is currently a legal extern at the United States Department of State as well as a staff writer at the Washington Times, is only 18-years-old but has already accomplished so much, Rahm Mohan said.

“She’s here to show that if she can do it, everyone else here can too,” Rahm Mohan said.

As a parent, Rahm Mohan said, it is good to see young people empowering each other and fostering a spirit of independence.

For most people, Patel said, independence does not stop at science and research. The same strategies apply to life in general, no matter what your interests are, he said.

And when a person finally finds what peaks their interest, he said, they must build the proper support system around them to ensure their success.

“Finding the right group and the right people that will help you succeed, I think that is the most important thing,” Patel said. “Then you don’t have people telling you no.”

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