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Black Children Have Highest Abuse Rates

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Black children are twice as likely as Whites to be victims of child abuse, with 1 in 5 becoming victims of neglect and/or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, according to a new study.

“These data highlight that the burden of confirmed maltreatment is far greater than suggested by single-year national estimates of confirmed child maltreatment and that the risk for maltreatment is particularly high for black children, who had cumulative risk of confirmed maltreatment in excess of 25 percent for many years, and never less-than 20 percent,” the report states.

Official 2011 data from child protective service agencies puts the overall child abuse figure at 1 in 100 children. But the new research places the figure at 1 in 8, with most of it taking place in the early years.

The new study, which appears online in this month’s JAMA Pediatrics, uses the same protective services data (the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System – or, NCANDS—Child File), but measures it cumulatively, including all children under 18 who have been victimized, up to and including the given year.

“If you have a person abused, say, at age four, and they were four in 2009. In 2014, they would be nine. If you took a yearly approach, you would only include in your measure those who were maltreated this year,” says Hedwig Lee, one of the study’s authors. “We show people who’ve experienced this at least one time before they were 18. It’s an estimate that shows the actual burden of maltreatment in children. If you experience maltreatment at any time, it affects you, so [this method] is a more clear snapshot of the population affected.”

The researchers use NCANDS data from 2004 through 2011, and in that time, nearly 5.7 million children had at least one confirmed case of maltreatment during their lives (80 percent of which stemmed from neglect, as opposed to abuse, according to the study). CPS found that 174,400 Black children had been neglected or abused in 2011 alone (for most of these children, it was the first reported case).

Cumulatively, researchers found that by 4 years old, Black children had a 1 in 10 chance of being maltreated. By 10 years old, the risk was 4 in 25. Put another way, that’s at least four students in every fifth-grade class. By 15 years old, Black youth had a 1 in 5 chance of having a CPS file.

In 2011, White children accounted for 317,900 confirmed maltreatment cases, most of which were first offenses. (There were a total of 670,000 confirmed cases that year).

Cumulatively, by 4 years old White children have a 1 in 20 chance of maltreatment; a 4 in 50 chance by age 10, and a 1 in 10 chance by age 15.

Put another way, Black children are twice as likely to suffer maltreatment as White children by each of those benchmarks.

“It highlights the importance of thinking about how, in the United States, many disparities that occur…are examples of the ways in which the history of racism can lead to disparate outcomes among groups,” Lee says, pointing out that overwhelmed parents of color are much less likely to have access to support such as comprehensive healthcare, lactation consultants, therapists, nannies, and the like.

“When we think of [the data’s] racial disparities, it’s not necessarily bias among CPS, but more about the large problems of social disparities. In many cases parents are overwhelmed and not receiving enough support. That’s a social and economic problem.”

CPS confirmed cases of abuse or neglect are most likely to occur in infancy and toddlerhood, across race and in both annual and cumulative measures. A more accurate interpretation, according to study co-author, Christopher Wildeman, is that in the case of babies and toddlers, maltreatment is both easier to identify as such, and more likely to be discovered.

“Young children are quite fragile, so maltreatment they experience — whether abuse or neglect — is more noticeable than it would be with older children. If you yank a two year-old by the arm and you yank an eight year-old by the arm, the two year-old could end up with a separated shoulder from the incident, whereas the eight year-old might feel resentful and hurt, but may not present symptoms of an injury,” Wildeman explains. In addition, “folks – whether teachers, physicians, or other folks in the community—are just more attentive to small children, and the folks at CPS are no different.”

In addition to the rate difference between CPS’s annual count and this study’s cumulative count, there’s also a huge difference between CPS rates and self-reporting from adults who were maltreated as children.

“Self-reported rates are higher because to have a case confirmed there has to be enough evidence and there’s a high level of proof,” Lee explains. “There’s going to be discrepancy…[especially if] they’ve never had contact with CPS. Our estimate might be conservative. It’s clear that people may be slipping through the cracks.”

The study does not make recommendations or offer sociological explanations regarding the disparities it highlights, but it does point out that child maltreatment is a serious public health issue. In addition to the moral implications, child maltreatment is associated with higher rates of mortality, obesity, HIV/AIDS infection, and mental health problems.

Children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to engage in criminal activity as teens and/or adults, and five times more likely to attempt suicide. One cited study estimates that the social toll stemming from the effects of child maltreatment costs the United States $124 billion every year.

“The results of this study provide valuable epidemiological information,” the researchers conclude. “Being able to assess the extent and severity of maltreatment across populations and time can inform policies and practices that can be used not only to reduce maltreatment, but also to improve population health and reduce health disparities.”

Rule Change on Generic Drug Labeling Could Cost Billions

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A proposed rule change for generic drug labels, crafted by the Food and Drug Administration, could cost patients, health care providers and drug manufacturers billions of dollars and limit access to affordable, prescription drugs for minorities and the poor, according to more than a dozen organizations that serve people of color.

Black groups and those representing other people of color expressed their concerns about the rule change in a March 14 letter to Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of food and drugs for the United States Food and Drug Administration.

The letter said acknowledged that, “while great strides have been made around improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities, much remains to be done.”

Among the groups signing the letter were: the National Medical Association, the National Dental Association, the National Black Nurses Foundation, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, the Association of Black Psychologists, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The rule change is designed to allow generic drug makers the ability to update their drug labels as soon as they learn of new potential risks.

The letter stated, “[The proposed rule change] would not only jeopardize patient safety, but as a recent economic study has shown, would also create billions of dollars in annual increased costs for consumers, taxpayers, large and small businesses, and state and federal governments. The rule would decrease patient access, impede healthcare decisions and delivery, and make fewer generic drugs available for patients who need them most.”

Patients’ advocate groups and some health care providers worry that drugs that are scientifically identical will carry very different warning labels, adding to patient confusion and may cause some consumers to shun life-saving, generic drugs completely.

According to a report by Matrix Global Advisors, an economic policy consulting firm and sponsored by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, a trade group for makers and distributors of generic prescription drugs, “the proposed Rule could be expected to increase spending on generic drugs by $4 billion per year (or 5.4 percent of generic retail prescription drug spending in 2012). Of this, government health programs would pay $1.5 billion, and private health insurance, $2.5 billion.”

In 2012, industry experts reported that generic drugs accounted for 84 percent of all prescriptions.

The report said that “generic manufacturers would face higher insurance premiums, self-insurance costs, and reserve spending on product liability, may exit or decline to enter the market for certain products for which they perceive greater liability risk or uninsurable liability risks.”

The report also warned that insurance companies that offered liability coverage to generic manufacturers in the past may also reverse course.

Even though the FDA said that the proposed rule is expected to generate little cost, the agency failed to take into account, “any impact from generic product liability and the accompanying price increases on physicians, pharmacists, hospitals, insurers, patients, or public payors as Medicare or Medicaid,” the report observed. This is a gross oversight on the FDA’s part, as the Proposed Rule would, by the agency’s own admission, provide patients using generic drugs ‘access to the courts’ to bring failure-to-warn suits against generic manufacturers.”

Derrick A. Humphries, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C. who represents many of the groups that signed the letter to Hamburg, said that the proposed rule change is not widely known among diverse populations.

Humphries said that the impact of any cost increase associated with generic drugs could cause an economic tsunami among minorities, especially African Americans who disproportionately go without health insurance and also suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease at higher rates than Whites.

“There must be an opportunity for diverse populations to have a seat at the table,” said Humphries. “It’s an issue we have to take seriously.”

Ralph Neas, the president and CEO of The Generic Pharmaceutical Association.

“We want the FDA to explore the unintended and harmful consequences that the rule may have on patient access, particularly on patients underserved by our nation’s health care system,” said Neas.

Neas called for a multi-stakeholder collaboration with the FDA.

The FDA should hear from providers that serve racial and ethnic populations and individuals who can offer expertise, experience and perspective, said Neas.

“We have a huge drug industry in this country,” said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “We have to pay attention to these changes. Sometimes it’s a fine detail that can have unintended consequences.

“The average person does not have time, but you have to tune in and understand the issue. It’s very important that we have our ear to the ground, not just when the FDA reaches out to [civil rights groups]. We need to reach out to the FDA.”

(Consumers can reach out to the FDA at: http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/dockets/comments/default.htm)

Neas recommended that the FDA consider expedited industry review, e-labeling for brand name and generic drugs and additional congressional resources for the FDA.

“Assuring safety information will be provided to pharmacists, providers and patients in the most efficient and expeditious way, that’s the way to protect patient safety and protect the public health while at the same time preserving $1.2 trillion dollars in savings for the system and our patients that we saw over the past 10 years,” said Neas.

Campbell said that there’s an opportunity for a mutual partnership between the FDA and minority groups and that community stakeholders and consumers have to stay on top of the issues, especially when those issues have a systemic impact.

Campbell added: “We want to make sure that the rule change makes it less complicated, not more complicated for people to make decisions when you’re standing in front of your pharmacist.”

Movie Inspires Students Who Never Thought about Attending College

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Correspondent

WASHINGTON – Every day of Dontay Gray’s senior year began at 5 a.m. The early start gave him enough time to catch the two buses and two trains to David Starr Jordan High School in Long Beach, California.

Although his family had moved a 90-minute commute away, Gray had his reasons for finishing high school at Jordan. He wanted to make a name for himself on the nationally-ranked football team, in hopes of earning a scholarship and becoming the first person in his family to attend college. If the sports angle didn’t work, he had been doing well academically, slowly raising a 2.8 GPA with a semester full of As and Bs. Plus, it was the first school he had attended since serving his sentence for gun possession in ninth grade.

“I started my road to college my 11th grade year. It’s never too late,” says Gray, now a senior at California State University, Sacramento. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, where your family is from, or what you’ve been through. College is for everybody.”

Gray is one of four students profiled in a new documentary titled, First Generation. The film seeks to shed light on the college access gap, which is often widest for those who are first in their families to pursue higher education.

According to the National College Access Network, full college access is achieved when every student receives sufficient academic preparation and personal support, to begin, and successfully complete post-secondary education. NCAN reports that only8.3 percent of low-income students earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24 (compared to 73 percent of students from high-income families).

“Both my parents went to college and both their parents went to college. My parents hired a private counselor for me because they knew my public school wasn’t helping me,” says the film’s co-director, Adam Fenderson. The genesis of the film came through his wife and co-director Jaye, who was a low-income student at Columbia University, and later became an admissions officer for the school. According to Jaye, the handful of applications from low-income students simply couldn’t compete with the gilded submissions from more well-off students.

Adam explains, “I had a lot of support and it was something I took for granted as a kid. For people [like me], it’s hard to teach them that that’s not necessarily normal, and that’s not necessarily what others are dealing with.”

One of the film’s goals is to show how complex the college access problem can be; a range of factors contributes to the disparity. NCAN cites rising tuition costs; the confusing, unstandardized admissions process; application fees; lack of academic and emotional support; and, a 471-to-1 average ratio of students to guidance counselors.

On top of this, would-be first generation students may never even consider college as a viable option.

“For [first-generation students] college is a foreign thing. Nobody in your immediate family knows about it, most of them didn’t finish high school,” says Gray, adding that he had thought the only people who could go to college were wealthy, or had exceptional grades.

After being released from juvenile hall, he was connected with a mentor who was the first to suggest college as an option for him. “Your family doesn’t know, so they can’t tell you. So they don’t talk about it, so you never bring it up. And in not talking about it, you start to figure it’s OK not to go to college. Nobody else went, and they seem fine. The less you talk about it, the less you plan to go.”

Although most of the parents in the film were excited about the prospect of their child going to college, unmistakable worry lurked below their smiles. During the film, one mother (who did not complete high school), burst into tears while setting up the Christmas tree, torn between having to say goodbye, and the prospect of not being able to afford the opportunity.

Another mother (and widow) quietly asked her slightly more-knowledgeable son whether she would need to pay for all four years at once. Gray’s mom, who had beaten a drug addiction but was unemployed during applications season, simply quipped, “We’ll figure it out.”

Most first-generation students are part of low-income or middle-class homes that cannot afford any college costs out-of-pocket.

“[The cost] was one of the biggest problems I had on my mind. I was broke. My family couldn’t pay a dime, and that’s when they told me about the FAFSA,” Gray says. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid lays out a family’s income information (as reported to the Internal Revenue Service), and the government, schools, and organizations use it to gauge how much financial help will be given, based on need. “If I didn’t know about that, I wouldn’t have even applied for college. I wouldn’t want to put my mom through that, I’d rather go to work to help her out.”

This deal-breaking level of concern is not unfounded. College costs are rising across the country, particularly at public four-year institutions, which tend to attract low-income and first-generation students.

As a result, grants and scholarships (if a student is even aware of them) don’t cover as much, and families take on loans to supplement. The Center for American Progress reports that 81 percent of Black students who earned a bachelor’s in 2012 had student debt, with 27 percent of them responsible for repaying $30,500 or more.

The dark cloud of college cost begins to overshadow the other factors in choosing the right college. This overshadowing leads to “poor matching,” which occurs when students, especially first generation students, assume they won’t be able to attend their personal-first-choice school (or even upper-tier schools they hadn’t considered) because of finances and/or grades. So they set their sights lower.

All four students in the documentary fell prey to this in some way. Gray, for example, originally wanted to attend Clark Atlanta University, but was discouraged by the application question that inquired about his criminal record.

“Students who end up over-qualified for their college get less rigorous training than they might during their time in college,” states a 2009 study by researchers at the University of Michigan. “This may lead to lower earnings once they enter the market, and is an inefficient use of educational resources, since some of our most able students are not being pushed to expand their knowledge and skills.”

With demand for skilled workers on the rise and the United States plummeting in international education and economic rankings, the underdevelopment of these talented students may stunt national growth.

Adam and Jaye have partnered with Wells Fargo to take First Generation on the road as part of a “Go College!” Tour, screening the film for high school students and education advocates. Adam says, “For students in high school who feel like they can’t make it to college because of their circumstances…seeing the kids [in the film] make it in their own way gives them hope, a sense of power.”

Only 1 of President Obama's Promise Zones is Majority-Black

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Despite the disproportionate impact of poverty found in African American communities, only one of President Barack Obama’s “Promise Zones,” is majority-Black, according to a new report.

A recent report by the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan research and educational institute, offered recommendations on the role the federal government should play in breaking barriers to social and economic mobility.

Earlier this year, President Obama launched his “The Promise Zones” initiative, a program that will fast track federal aid to some of the nation’s poorest communities.

During his speech on Promise Zones in January, President Obama said, “A child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams.”

The Center for American Progress report highlighted the implicit and explicit role that the federal government played in stifling the scope of those dreams for thousands of Black families.

“These practices included redlining, beginning in the 1930s – when the federal government allowed the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation and banks to exclude African American communities from receiving home loans,” stated the report. “Following World War II, in many metropolitan regions, highways were rammed through many low-income, mostly African American communities, displacing thousands of residents and small businesses and ripping apart the fabric of these long established neighborhoods.”

Nearly 38 percent of Black children live in poverty, compared to about 12 percent of White children who are considered poor. A report by the Children’s Defense Fund said that 23 percent of Black children under the age of five live in extreme poverty.

“A growing body of research shows that being raised in such high-poverty communities undermines the long-term life chances of children,” stated the CAP report. “For example, poverty has been shown to genetically age children, and living in communities exposed to violence impairs cognitive ability.”

The report said that this increases the likelihood that children will have poor health and educational outcomes and few employment opportunities in the future.

Even Blacks, who are considered middle class, based on their income, often live in poor neighborhoods.

The CAP report cited research by Patrick Sharkey, an associate professor of Sociology at New York University that found “the average African American family making $100,000 a year lives in a more disadvantaged neighborhood than the average white family making $30,000 a year, revealing how past social policies continue to affect neighborhood choice.”

The report continued: “Sharkey explains that the same, mostly African American families have lived in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods over long periods of time and over multiple generations, limiting access to better opportunities. ‘Neighborhood poverty experienced a generation ago doesn’t disappear. It doesn’t become inconsequential. It lingers on to affect the next generation.”

San Antonio, Texas, Philadelphia, Pa., Los Angeles, Calif., Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma were selected as Promise Zones in the first round of the process. The CAP report said that the administration plans to designate a total of 20 Promise Zones by 2016.

Philadelphia, which is about 43 percent Black and nearly 37 percent White, is the only majority-Black Promise Zone selected in the first round.

“In Philadelphia, nearly 4 out of every 10 kids live below the poverty line, with many living in the city’s struggling West Philadelphia area. In the area’s Mantua neighborhood specifically, only around 40 percent of adults have a high school diploma, and there are high youth crime rates,” stated report.

Some would argue that the need for increased federal aid is just as great in the other four Promise Zones.

“San Antonio’s Eastside neighborhood is a predominately Latino and African American community, where nearly 4 in 10 adults do not have high school diplomas and the violent-crime rate is 50 percent higher than the rest of the city,” according to the report.

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, an economic development firm created during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, reported that the poverty rate in majority White Southeastern Kentucky is around 30 percent.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma also suffers poverty rates that are much higher than the national average.

“Although the poverty rate for those living in the Choctaw Nation is nearly 23 percent, some communities within the zone are far higher. Nine of the census tracts designated as part of the Choctaw zone have poverty rates exceeding 30 percent, with one as high as 52.8 percent,” report said.

The report offered a number of recommendations to accelerate the efforts of President Obama’s Promise Zones initiative, including cutting taxes for businesses that invest in the zones, awarding planning grants to help designees build capacity for current programs, and encouraging community and regional partnerships with anchor institutions like colleges and universities.

The report also suggested using current social mobility research that looks at family structure, segregation, and social capital to help design goals targeted specifically to the needs of the communities where the plans will be implemented.

“The goal of the initiative is not only to transform the selected zones but also to change how the federal government works with local communities,” the report said. “By utilizing place-based strategies that leverage the federal government’s continued investment in keeping families out of poverty, we can ensure that our country lives up to its promise of being the land of opportunity.”

Maya Angelou Opened Her Life to Open our Eyes

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The day before she died, Maya Angelou telephoned Ebony magazine headquarters in Chicago to tell new editor-in-chief Mitzi Miller that she was proud of her. They barely knew each other. Miller knew Angelou mostly through her writings.

“She spoke to me for 10 minutes, so generously and complimentary toward the work I had done in JET. She said that she had just called to tell me how much she had been enjoying JET…and she was proud of how much I had done,” Miller recalls. “I’m stuttering, trying to keep up. It was a brush with greatness. I feel so blessed that, for whatever reason, she decided to call me. I feel incredibly grateful.”

It was a final gesture that exemplified Angelou’s sincerity and openness. As in inimitable as she was, she had a way of making everyone feel they were her best friend.

“This is someone that I have followed my entire life, read her books, looked up to…and she was on the phone with me,” Miller continues. “Having a really everyday conversation, kind of how you’d expect your aunt to call you, like ‘girl, I’m so proud of you.’ And the next day she had passed.”

Angelou was born in St. Louis, Mo. as Marguerite Johnson, but assumed the name Maya Angelou and many other titles over her 86 years: writer, activist, entertainer, San Francisco’s first Black female street car conductor, professor, doctor, linguist, winner of three Grammys, the NAACP Springarn Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to name just a few.

But in her own words, she was simply “a teacher who writes.” And many remember her as that – and so much more.

“There are two things she taught me that I try to remember,” says Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence magazine. “One moment we were chatting and I was very stressed about work. And she told me, time spent away from your desk renewing yourself is as important as time spent hunkered over your work. And that we should never beat up ourselves or feel guilty…she said to me, as I’m sure she’s said to many others, we have to do as well as we know how to do, until we know better. Then when we know better, we can do better.”

Even through her status as an international icon, Angelou constantly took others under her wing, inviting them to her home, feeding, regaling, and encouraging them to live well and pursue their goals. She loved to celebrate and entertain, from warm Thanksgivings with friends and mentees who became her chosen family, to lavish garden parties and ceremonies held in her honor.

CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile recounts reading her work as a girl, and ending up dining with her as an adult.

“Once, my friend Minyon Moore hosted a luncheon in honor of Betty Shabazz, Cicely Tyson, Coretta Scott King and Maya Angelou. It was a moment for us, the up-and-coming, to meet our heroes, to sit at their feet and learn from them,” she said. “Before we could break bread (cornbread), Maya had everyone laughing. She made a place for so many folks in her life, in her kitchen or on her stage.”

Ingrid Saunders Jones, another mentee and chair of the National Council of Negro Women, remembers Angelou’s portrait unveiling ceremony at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. It was the day after Angelou’s 86th birthday, and the last time Jones, former chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation, would see her.

“What I saw that day was complete delight from her that this was happening, and that she was surrounded by people she loved and people who loved her. It was just a love fest,” Jones says. “She gathered all her strength – she was so strong that day – as she answered questions about herself. And she sang to us. It was just a day never to be forgotten.”

In 2009, National Urban League President and CEO, Marc Morial went to Angelou’s home to request her participation in the League’s centennial celebration.

“What followed was hours of conversation sitting at her kitchen table as she told stories, gave life lessons, and shared poignant perspectives on art, culture and humankind,” he shared. “With equal parts majesty and humility, she held court – and I listened intently, absorbing every word and meaning that she had to impart. It was an incredibly powerful experience, and I will always be grateful.”

The visit resulted in her poem titled, “We Hear You.”

Through her works, generations will continue to sit at her kitchen table by proxy. Her most famous works, such as “Still I Rise,” “Phenomenal Woman,” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” were imbued with her wisdom and power. Her words could lift a reader out of a personal nadir, fortify, and quietly cheer him or her toward the best version of themselves.

Angelou backed her eloquence with gritty action. An active participant of the Civil Rights Movement – she served as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) – her time was dedicated to human rights and dignified life for all.

“As much as she was an international figure, she was still very much as down-to-earth as soil,” says University of Louisville Business Professor Nat Irvin II, a longtime friend who taught with her at Wake Forest University and attended the same church. “She was majorly dedicated to the common humanity of all people. That’s where her heart rested. That’s what her life was about.”

Rep. John Lewis [D-Ga.] called her a “soothsayer,” adding that her talents and activism “set this nation on a path toward freedom.” He continued, “America is a better place, and we are a better people because Dr. Maya Angelou lived.”

From serving in a leadership for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to helping Malcolm X establish the Organization of African American Unity just before his assassination, to lending her voice to push for gay rights, Maya Angelou was a consistent crusader for fairness.

“Over the course of a career spanning some of the most tumultuous decades of the last century, she taught us how to rise above ‘a past that’s rooted in pain,’” said Attorney General Eric Holder, whose firstborn was named after Angelou. “She gave voice to a people too often shut out of America’s public discourse.”

Last week, Angelou gave her last public interview to Susan Taylor’s National CARES Mentoring Movement, which seeks to elevate the state of Black youth through targeted, skilled mentorship. Angelou wrote its “Pledge to Young People,” and often delivered at the organization’s local affiliates over the years.

“She was always getting engaged in what really matters most – ensuring the education and well-being of children struggling along the margins,” Taylor says. “One thing I think she wanted to really impart was the importance of being courageous – you can have all the other virtues but it’s meaningless without courage. It takes courage, commitment, and strategy to change reality, to stand with people in crushing circumstances. That was the mandate of her life.”

But above all, she was human. In her autobiographical works, she let the world in on her pain, her uncertainties, and her forays into the wilder side of life, including prostitution. In sharing so much of herself, she led millions to self-acceptance, self-love, and self-actualization.

“I think of how willing she was to share her journey so all of us would know that life is not perfect,” says Ingrid Saunders Jones. “And she articulated it in a way that helped so many people. She taught us through the sharing of her life.”

Marcia Ann Gillespie, former editor of Essence and Ms. magazines, agrees.

“She was a WOMAN. All caps. She was a woman who lived her life to the fullest, enjoyed the company of men, loved her scotch, lived life to the max, was adventurous…she was an activist and icon, and I think all that will be captured, but we forget they’re living, breathing, human beings,” Gillespie says. “She, by example, taught us that it was important to own our lives, not to try to edit or change things, not to feel guilty, and to own both our mistakes and our triumphs.”

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