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Demonstrators Rally In Support of Childcare Providers

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By William Clark

Demonstrators held a noonday rally in downtown Riverside earlier this month to encourage Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to put his signature to a bill which they say would significantly improve the lives and working conditions of child care workers by providing them better pay and affordable health insurance.

Assembling around a canopied platform erected just steps from the California Building, the site of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's satellite office, the demonstrators carried large signs and placards and shouted "Arnold, sign AB 1164". Rally organizers addressed the crowd on large speakers and occasionally led them in chants of "Come on Arnold, have a heart. Kids deserve a better start" and "If parents can't afford to pay, providers can't afford to stay."

Thursday's rally attracted one prominent local politician who turned out to show his support for AB 1164. Riverside City Councilmember Dom Betro, himself a child care provider who also operates a non-profit organization that provides child-care centers, remarked that the show of solidarity among the rally's participants will send a strong message to Governor Schwarzenegger that affordable, quality child care is an issue of paramount importance to California.

"It is important for people who provide child care to have a stable work environment, to have living wages, to have benefits, and to have the ability to care for kids knowing that their own needs are being met. [There is] no way for child care centers alone to meet this crisis. We need a viable day care provider that is alive and well and providing care for your kids in California. This bill will insure that. Today, I'm standing with you the providers, the parents, the kids and the small businesses to ask our governor to give our child care providers a voice to improve child care in Riverside and the state of California," he said.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1164 was introduced by Kevin de León, a member of the California State Assembly. The Web site for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is endorsing the bill, says AB 1164 will give child care providers the freedom to form a democratic organization of their choosing. Workers can also bargain collectively for fair wages and better working conditions.

The bill is modeled on similar bills that have been passed in other states, where providers have worked together through their unions to reduce childcare cost and have gained access to affordable health insurance.

"Providers are making below minimum wage...less than $4.00 an hour. And many child care providers face a myriad of problems, including late payment of wages and a real lack of necessary medical coverage. Riverside County has the worst ratio in terms of available child care providers versus child care needs. Many providers are leaving the system because they can't make ends meet. This bill will give all child care providers a necessary voice and help them to do their jobs that much better," said one organizer.

Opponents of AB 1164 argue the bill will violate federal anti-trust laws and will set the stage for price-fixing by child care providers.  Organizers insist that, although the bill does advocate the overall stability of the child care industry through the collective activities of providers, a system of checks-and-balances will prevent any collusion on price-fixing.

Children signing a large card in support of child care workers. The card will be presented to Governor Schwarzenegger.

A 2005 study by the National Economic Development and Law Center on the economic impact of the child care industry in Riverside County found that while child care in Riverside generates revenue of $230 million annually, Riverside had the lowest proportion of spaces for licensed child care per child. Nearly 15,000 children who are eligible for subsidized child [home] care remain on waiting list due to the shortage of licensed facilities. The study found that on average, a family child care provider who is licensed to care for 14 children and works up to 60 hours a week receives only $15,000 a year in wages. Providers pay all out of pocket expenses for all books, toys, food and necessary educational supplies. Advocates for AB 1164 say that such dire statistics account for the staggering 40% turnover rate among family child care workers.

A common theme among many of the providers who turned out for Thursday's rally was the belief that child care workers provide a vital need in the community. But they say they are disenchanted with the apathy and indifference of their elected state officials. Several workers said they are struggling just to meet their personal financial obligations. One provider commented that she hasn't been paid in nearly 60 days and that she is unsure how she is going to make her mortgage payment this month. Concerned about the tardiness of her paycheck, she phoned her agency. She said that a state worker, speaking to her in confidence, told her that one payroll worker is often assigned up to 3,000 timesheets for processing in a single pay period, and that the average worker can only process 50 timesheets a day. Since she lacks health insurance, she says she has not been able to visit a doctor for a physical examination in over two years. She insists the real issue for her is not one of money, but one of respect and acknowledgement from the government for the valuable services childcare workers provide.

 "We don't want the Governor to see us as just babysitters. We're much more than that. By caring for these kids we are taking care of the future. It's not all about the money, it's about respect. We're providing a valuable service to our community and to California. We're a second family for many of these kids ...a second home for these children," she said.

Speakers at the rally also addressed the problematic situation of parents who work, but who are still unable to afford childcare.

Erika Kraut, an unemployed mother of two from Rialto, found herself in such a position when she was laid off her job. Kraut said that at the time she didn't think she was doing anything wrong by finding another position.  The child care assistance program thought differently; they disqualified her because they say she failed to notify their office that she had been laid off. Unable to afford child care without state assistance, Kraut lost her second job because there was no one to care for her two daughters while she worked. Kraut was placed in an absurd "catch 22" situation: without affordable child care she could not work, and without work she could not afford child care. She says many families in California face this problem everyday and that for many parents the only viable alternative is to seek public assistance. The most painful part of the ordeal, Kraut says, is the effect it has had on her two daughters.

"[They] really miss going to their day care, because it was an early education program. It's hard to explain to them that they can't go to day care anymore. Day care providers need a voice so that no parent will have to worry about whether their child will get that kind of support," she said. 

Bishop Eugene Jones, Sr., director of Change of Heart Ministries in San Bernardino and a speaker at Thursday's rally, says that he is convinced that many of the ills affecting the childcare system can be remedied with one stroke of the governor's pen. Jones, whose wife and daughter-in-law are child care providers, says the shortage of quality care is directly attributable to the dire conditions that exist for most workers.

 "Many [providers] have left because they don't have affordable health care, so they've gotta go back into the workforce. California is the only state that doesn't provide health care for its child care providers. They love what they do, but they've got responsibilities too, so they have to do what they need to do. Child care is a vital part of our community and our state. Our children are now. We have to educate them while their young. Child care provides them with good character and good morals and teaches them good social skills for their future. We need to encourage more [providers] to stay in this field," he said.

As Jones closed his speech, his final remark drew spontaneous clapping and shouts of "amen" from many in the crowd.

"Governor Schwarzenegger, we are gathered here today to let you know that this is not Burger King. You can't have it your way. Our children don't need more prisons to be built. Do the right thing and sign AB 1164," he concluded.

Champion Mom Encourages Parents

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By Ashley A. Jones

Champion mom Sherle Webb's goal is to educate and help the community residents of San Bernardino and Riverside live life longer. Webb, who has served the Champions for Change campaign for 10 months said, " My role as a Champions for Change mom is to help others identify nutritional needs and inform them of the risk factors included with eating. I teach and educate people on health, nutrition, and children obesity."

Champions for Change is a program presented by the Network for a Healthy California African American campaign that serves African American women from the ages of 18-54 in the San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The campaign challenges California families to commit to a healthy lifestyle.

Webb has been married for eight years and works as a Registered Nurse. She has six children, 27, 19, 17, 16, 13, and 5. and will graduate in June 2008 with her BA degree from the University of Phoenix.

Sherle Webb

In addition to serving Champions for Change, Webb serves as Founder and President of New Beginning Community Services. Webb said, " My New Beginning Community Services works with unwedded teen mothers. I educate them and serve as a role model in order to help them and their babies have a healthy start."

Webb said good health is essential because it affects all aspects of the individual. She explained, "Good health is important because it helps with your self esteem, your overall mental health, physical health, emotional, and spiritual health. If you having challenges with your health, its going to affect every dynamic of your body."

Webb encourages other role models to promote healthy lifestyles. She said, "Good health affects the generations to come. We have a big impact on our kids and grandkids.  As role models they look up to us, they look at how we eat, how we think, and make choices."

Webb ended by saying, " I've learned that eating right and exercising has to be a priority. You have to look at it as a need, like water or air. Once you change your priorities, which start with changing your choices, you start looking better, feeling better, and you live longer. Other people will see and want to follow."

For healthy tips, recipes, community resources, or instruction on how to become a Champion mom, visit www.cachampionsforchange.net  or call toll-free: 1-888-328-3483.

Today Dental: Helping People Smile

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By Shantiqua Stuart

Dr. Mueni L. Mutinga
Celebrating its grand opening on August 15, 2007, Today Dental has got off to a great start and is striving towards a promising year. This new facility is a Black owned dentist where all of its staff members share the same philosophy, and that is to provide personal care for and spend quality time with its patients.  

Today Dental has a family oriented staff that focuses on the quality care, safety, comfort, and needs of its patients.  The staff is synchronized with today's modern technology.  They have already upgraded to digital X-rays and have computers in every room.  To make things more efficient, they are working towards paperless offices.   These alterations will make the dental process easier and efficient for patients.

There are two highly qualified dentists in the facility, Dr. Mueni L. Mutinga, D.D.S., and Dr. Phuong-trinh Nguyen, D.D.S.  They perform various dentistry duties, such as preventive, restorative, cosmetic procedures, implants, veneers, porcelain crowns, and tooth colored fillings.  Dr. Mutinga graduated in 2001 from Loma Linda University where she received her doctorate degree in dental surgery.  In 1997, Dr. Nguyen received her doctorate degree in dental surgery, as well, from the University Of Southern California School Of Dentistry. 

Dr. Mueni L. Mutinga works on a patient at the Today Dental office in Downtown Riverside.

The owner of Today Dental, Dr. Mutinga, is a well experienced dentist in the field.  She has been in practice for six and a half years and is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Loma Linda University of Dentistry.   Dr. Mutinga engages in volunteer work at a clinic in Costa Mesa. 

As a child, she was inspired by her first dentist, who was an African American male, to pursue a career in dentistry.  He made such an impact on her life because he took the time to explain and teach her about dental obligations, rather than just performing his daily duties.  Since Dr. Mutinga has had a positive experience with her dentist, she too strives to provide personal care for her patients.   She believes that one on one attention is important in making patients feel more comfortable with their surroundings.  "We try to make it feel as comfortable as possible in the decor, in the environment, in the rooms,...we have movies playing, ...you can relax ...and we don't over book (in this office) because we give each patient quite a bit of time,"  says Dr. Mutinga.

In addition, Dr. Mutinga enjoys dental education.  She explained that she is always willing to go to classrooms, church groups, and organizations to speak about the importance of dental care and health.   "I just want to be able to go out and educate (others) so that there is less need to do as much corrective dental work," says Dr. Mutinga.  She further explained that women with oral health problems have been found, in medical books, to have lower birth rates.  Therefore, it is imperative and necessary to educate them about the health effects of oral problems because knowledge on the topic may help avert these consequences.  Her avid passion for teaching and educating about dental health is genuine and sincere because it is something that she loves and enjoys doing.  Dr. Mutinga stated that she would be available and is more than willing to visit any group to speak about the essentials of dental care.

For any questions about Today Dental services, please call the facility at 951-786-9600.  They are open Monday through Friday from nine in the morning to five in the evening, and they are located in Downtown Riverside at 3701 Market Street Suite E, Riverside, California 92501. You may also visit their website at www.helpingpeoplesmile.com.

Champions For Change Making Healthy Choices

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By Ashley A. Jones

In May of 2007 the Network for a Healthy California African American campaign launched "Champions for Change," encouraging African American residents of the San Bernardino and Riverside counties to commit to healthy lifestyles.

Astrid Mickens
Astrid Mickens, Dr. coordinates the African American campaign for San Bernardino County. Mickens is a certified Health Education Specialist with a doctorate in Health Education from Loma Linda University. She has served as a Health Education specialist for the County of San Bernardino for one year. She has also served as a speaker for programs such as the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference.

Dr. Mickens said she realizes the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles. "This program is a new state level campaign from the county which stresses the importance of good eating habits, and regular exercise to reduce sickness and disease," she said.

The program is intended to serve women from the ages of 18-54. Dr. Mickens hopes to gain more participants to join the campaign and get educated about healthy foods, exercise, address community concerns, and get the word out.

Champions for Change offers several resources to help educate the public in living healthy lifestyles. This program includes health information services, recipes and cookbook information, and locations where people can get involved in physical activity.

Dr. Mickens said, "I was influenced to coordinate the campaign because I saw it as being relevant in the community. There are high proportions of African Americans with chronic health disease including diabetes. A lot of people are not getting the recommended amount of healthy foods and exercise."

According to Dr. Mickens, the purpose of the program is to get as many people as possible to start eating better and to encourage women to be good role models for their children, and other family members.

Dr. Mickens said, "The most rewarding part of leading the campaign is working directly with individuals about misinformation. You would be surprised how much misinformation is out there. A lot of the issues concern reading food labels. I help by giving information on how to read food labels and as a result, the individual makes positive changes in their diet."

Another advocate of the "Champions for Change" campaign is Reverend Bronica Martindale, Community Health Leader for the San Bernardino County department of Public Health. Reverend Martindale received her BA degree in Art with a concentration in dance and theatre from Loyola University, Ca.

 She has served as President of the California Gardens Neighborhood Cluster Association, which promotes safety, nutrition, physical activity, family wellness, and beautification. She also served on the Art Commission for San Bernardino. Recently, Assembly member Bill Emerson recognized her as a Woman of Distinction for 2007.

Rev. Bronica Martindale
Reverend Martindale said, " I was motivated to be a Community Heath Leader from my previous experience working with Families of African Americans Ancestry Manifesting our Excellence (FAME). This program infused nutrition and physical education as well as combined art and nutrition."

Reverend Martindale encourages individuals to make healthy choices by using art. She teaches classes on African American dance, praise dance, visual arts with fruits, and poetry. She said by participating in the dance activities and art activities women don't even realize that they are working towards a healthier lifestyle.

She said, "We want to empower African American women to make healthy choices. We want to show them healthy living is not complicated but easy to obtain. We want them to feel good about themselves and to put physical activity in their daily lives as well as their families lives."

Reverend Martindale concluded by saying, "We want to inspire hope into our community. We want individuals to move towards their dreams and visions.

Monterey’s Musical Cup Runneth Over for its Golden Year

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By Taylor Jordan

Music, music and more music.

It'll be a good time for fans coming from all corners of the world for a weekend of golden memories at the 50th anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival presented by Verizon.

Dave Brubeck
The Monterey County fairgrounds is not the place to be Sept. 21, 22 and 23 for sticks in the mud who can't find the passion, depth, diversity and range of satisfaction available in jazz.

The grounds, halls and stages will be saturated with stylistically distinctive expressions of the art form originated in the hearts, minds and souls of African-Americans.

Pinnacle players include artist-in-residence Terence Blanchard, Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, Gerald Wilson, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, James Hunter, Isaac Delgado and a 50th anniversary all-star ensemble featuring Blanchard, James Moody, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, Kendrick Scott and Derrick Hodge.

Omette Coleman, Los Lobos, Chris Potter, the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra featuring top teen players, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Eric Harland, Otis Taylor, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts Jazz Band and Diana Krall are also headliners.

Sonny Rollins
The main arena's Jimmy Lyons Stage, Dizzy's Den, Garden Stage, Bill Berry Nightclub, Coffee House Gallery, West Lawn, Courtyard Stage and the brand-new Lyons Lounge will explode with sound as 500 artists actively engage enthusiastic listeners for five concert sets in three days.

Golden goodies giving fans something to talk about for another 50 years will include Gerald Wilson's world premier of the commissioned composition "Monterey Moods;" Monterey Jazz Festival Chamber Orchestra's premier of "Requiem for Katrina," Blanchard's heartfelt tribute to his New Orleans' roots; a Hammond B-3 organ blast with now No. 1 organist Joey DeFrancesco and the Atsuko Hashimito trio with special guest saxophonist Houston Person and drummer Jeff Hamilton; and the new historic-laden Lyons Lane which serves as a connecting crossroads of past and present Monterey memorabilia.

Vocalists Ernestine Anderson and Lynne Fiddmont, guitarists Kenny Burrell, Anthony Wilson and Mimi Fox, Ian Neville's Dumpstaphunk, trumpeters Christian Scott and Sean Jones, pianists Cyrus Chestnut and Kenny Barron and drummer Rashied Ali highlight the entertainment lineup on grounds' stages.

Monterey's monumental moments add new flairs and features to stimulate brains and beats.

Photographic images captured by Michael Piazza, Ray Avery and Ron Hudson will be displayed in the "Behind the Lens/50 Years of Monterey Jazz Festival Photos" exhibit in the Coffee House Gallery. Piazza's last photographs of the late great saxophonist Michael Brecker will be unveiled in the signature show "Beware of Propellers/The Last Brecker Sessions."

Jazz journalists, historians, festival producers and associates Darlene Chan, Paul deBarros, Toby Gleason, Ashley Kahn, Orrin Keepnews and Bill Minor will  discuss the significance and contributions of MJF co-founder Ralph Gleason. Dan Ouellette will host the panel discussion presented by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Clint Eastwood and John Sayles will be the conversationalists focusing on the subject "Music and Movies." DeBarros will moderate.

It's a weekend commemorating history and celebrating contemporary creativity. As such, Sayles' new film, "Honeydripper," will be previewed and Ralph Gleason's 1968 film celebrating MJF's 10th anniversary will be screened.

Gerald Wilson will do Downbeat magazine's "Blindfold Test."

The Sunday staging of new family day activities is sponsored by Macy's and features the Banana Slug String Band, Brasilian rhythms by Sambada, the Hot Club of San Francisco, Percussion Playshow and, for very young children, a Jazzy Jumper.

Grounds tickets can still be purchased in advance for $35 Friday, $45 each Saturday and Sunday, or $100 for three days at the festival ticket office (925) 275-9255, and online at www.montereyjazzfestival.org. Ground tickets purchased at the gate are $5 more per ticket. Grounds tickets do not allow arena access, but patrons can enjoy arena simulcasts in the Jazz Theater. Numerous main arena artists will also do double duty and perform on ground stages.

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BVN National News Wire