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My Work

Writing provides an exhilarating feeling for me. There is nothing I enjoy more than sharing stories with my community to keep them updated on everyday occurrences. I truly hope to one day make a career out of my writing. Please feel free to browse my columns, articles, photos, and video packages.

'Our annual reunion': Kingdom Bound returns to Six Flags Darien Lake

Appeared in The Buffalo News

The 35th annual Kingdom Bound Festival returned to Six Flags Darien Lake Amusement Park after being canceled for the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The festival is a four-day multistage Christian music and arts event that close to 40,000 people attended. Kingdom Bound 2022 is the biggest of its kind in New York and one of the biggest in the nation.

Derrick M. Byrd Jr., 87, worked at YMCA, dedicated to local youth

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Derrick M. Byrd Jr., a local community leader with a passion for service and dedication to Buffalo youth, dies May 19 in his home after a brief period of declining health. He was 97.

Buffalo Common Council approves redrawn district boundaries; legal challenge looms

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Buffalo's redistricting process and product drew criticism from hundreds of residents organized by Our City Action Buffalo, but Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen stood by the new, redrawn map. The map was unanimously approved by the Common Council and now heads to Mayor Byron Brown's desk.

Buffalo man pleads guilty to attempted assault after road incident

Appeared in The Buffalo News

A Buffalo man pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree attempted assault before Supreme Court Justice Paul B. Wojtaszek, according to Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. Prosecutors said Orlando Oquendo-Torres, 31, fired a handgun several times at a motorist he did not know, causing the victim to crash his vehicle as he fled.

Shooting in Buffalo leaves one dead

Appeared in The Buffalo News

A 35-year-old Buffalo man was fatally struck by gunfire overnight, the Buffalo Police Department announced. The victim was transported by an ambulance to Erie County Medical Center, where he was later declared deceased.

Two Buffalo police officers cleared of wrongdoing in shooting

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Two Buffalo police officers who shot a man they said shot at them have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing after an investigation, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said during a press conference. Flynn made the announcement following the arraignment of Haynes, who allegedly shot at Officers Jake Michienzi and Hao Tran while fleeing a fatal shooting.

Two neighbors sue Grand Island bar and grill over 'pounding noise' and 'raucous' patrons

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Two Grand Island residents have had enough of putting up with a bar overlooking the Niagara River near their homes. They say patrons are boisterous, raucous, loud, frequently use foul language, and display lewd behavior. However, the attorney for the bar Turner's Port of Call says the allegations are false.

Pediatrician, two daughters killed in North Buffalo blaze

Appeared in The Buffalo News

A Buffalo pediatrician and two of his daughters died in an overnight fire in North Buffalo, according to the Buffalo Fire Department. The mother injured in the Huntington Avenue fire was taken by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center and is listed in serious condition. The couple's third daughter was not home during the fire.

Attorney General James files lawsuit against 10 gun retailers for ghost guns

Appeared in The Buffalo News

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced during a press conference that her office filed a lawsuit against 10 online gun retailers. An investigation by the New York City Sheriff's Office found that these out-of-state gun retailers violated New York’s licensing laws by selling ghost guns to customers, including convicted felons, without conducting background checks. This lawsuit will be the first case to use the Public Nuisance statute passed by the New York legislature in 2021.

Niagara County receives $3.9 million from EPA to address brownfield sites

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Niagara County will receive $3.9 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean and redevelop brownfield sites, EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia announced. The EPA selected Niagara County for the revolving loan fund grant and received the largest amount awarded in New York State. A total of 12 grants were awarded in New York State. Niagara County has several hundred brownfield sites.

Eden supervisor wins primary against incumbent in Erie County clerk's race

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Candidate Melissa Hartman won the Democratic primary race against incumbent Erie County Clerk Michael "Mickey" Kearns. The Town of Eden Supervisor was endorsed by the Democratic party despite just recently switching her party affiliation. Although Hartman won, she will face Kearns again in the general election as he holds Republican and Conservative party lines.

The scene on primary night: Erie County Clerk candidate Melissa Hartman 'confident' about race

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Erie County Clerk candidate Melissa Hartman was in high spirits as she capped off Primary Election Day in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Buffalo. County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz accompanied Hartman to various polling locations including the church. Hartman, the Eden Town Supervisor, faces the incumbent Michael "Mickey" Kearns.

Jazz musician Sara Rogers killed by car while riding bicycle

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Local jazz musician Sara Rogers was killed in Buffalo after a car struck her and two other women while riding their bicycles. The other women were injured, while Rogers was taken to Erie County Medical Center. She was 29. Rogers was heavily involved in the music, therapy, and education communities.

After fire devastates its building, Hindu Cultural Society looks to the future

Appeared in The Buffalo News

When the president of the Hindu Cultural Society of Western New York received a call just before 11 p.m., she did not think much of it. That is until 15 minutes later when she arrived at the society's building to see the structure smoking. The fire caused $750,000 in damages, officials estimated.

A new build for Tops of East Side would have taken 'years'

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Following the death of ten black people in the Tops mass shooting by a white supremacist on May 14, many residents of Buffalo's East-side community have mixed feelings about the grocery store's reopening. Some residents have called for another store to be opened in the area, which has been identified as a food desert. However, Tops Friendly Markets is determined to reopen its Jefferson Avenue location.

Anthony 'Tony' Gloster, 75, saxophonist and fixture in Buffalo music scene

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Anthony "Tony" L. Gloster, was a Buffalo musician who traveled and met the likes of music legends such as Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and James Brown. He died May 22 in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center after complications from diabetes. He was 75.

Gunshot victim who drove to hospital with a gun pleads guilty to weapon possession

Appeared in The Buffalo News

A 27-year-old Buffalo man pleaded guilty after police said they found a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol and six rounds of ammunition on his car's floor. Before police arrived, the man drove himself to Erie County Medical Center while suffering gunshot wounds.

Startup Closeup: Jamm Around

Appeared in New Orleans City Business

Jamm Around won first place at the culminating event of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week called IDEApitch. The win for the networking app that allows musicians and others in the industry to make fast connections makes the company eligible for a $400,000 investment. With this being their first big investment, the three co-founders of Jamm Around look forward to the company's future.

Back to in-person: New Orleans Entrepreneur Week returns

Appeared in New Orleans City Business

New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW) 2022 returned to an in-person experience after being held virtually in 2021 and canceled weeks before in 2020. NOEW is a week-long festival that celebrates various forms of entrepreneurship and innovation in New Orleans. Local businesses, startup companies, investors, and business-minded creatives are treated to events, summits, parties, and panels spanning across New Orleans.

Internship program promotes entrepreneurial DE&I

Appeared in New Orleans City Business

Greater New Orleans, Inc. is entering its second year of its HBCU Startup Internship Program in partnership with The Idea Village and local HBCUs. Participants from Xavier University of Louisiana, Dillard University, and Southern University at New Orleans are provided the opportunity to train within New Orleans’ startup community in order to increase economic equality.

Q&A with Christa Cotton

Appeared in New Orleans City Business

Christa Cotton, the founder and CEO of El Guapo, has made waves since her arrival into New Orleans' cocktail culture. She has led the brand as they have entered the shelves of household names such as Costco and Whole Foods. Now, Cotton is overseeing El Guapo's rapid expansion with the construction of their new brewery and is set to have contracts in Georgia and Tennessee soon.

Inside the partnership behind the new, women-owned 3D Studios

Appeared in New Orleans City Business

A successful hip-hop artist and an educator-turned-entrepreneur have teamed up to open Louisiana's first women-owned and operated entertainment studios. 3D Studios provides a one-stop-shop for any workspaces and resources that recording artists, videographers, photographers, podcasters, and other content creators in New Orleans may need. The opening of 3D Studios is part of the growing activity that aims for the revitalization of the New Orleans East area.

Bayou Phoenix selected to begin major revitalization of New Orleans East

Appeared in The Louisiana Weekly

Following the withdrawal by Drew Brees and developer Keirnan West, Bayou Phoenix was chosen by the city of New Orleans for the Six Flags and Jazzland site redevelopment project. The project is considered to kickstart the revitalization of the New Orleans East area. Bayou Phoenix, LLC includes two locally-owned development companies that have partnered with a Dallas-based one. The proposal includes plans for warehousing, a logistics center, sports complex, hotel, and more.

STEM NOLA’s Mission and Purpose Grows Over the Pandemic

Appeared in New Orleans Data News Weekly

The founder of STEM NOLA Dr. Calvin Mackie, now STEM Global Action, is using examples from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to educate children. Most recently, Mackie used the character Sam Wilson, who is played by his brother actor Anthony Mackie. Mackie hopes that by using his brother's character he can build an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in students.

Mothers of Slain Unarmed Black Men and Women Continue to Advocate for Change

Appeared in New Orleans Data News Weekly

The Mothers of the Movement, a group of women who have lost children to police and gun violence, urged the youth of New Orleans to remain vigilant of police brutality, gun violence, and its impact on the community. Gwendolyn Carr, the mother of the late Eric Garner; Tamika Palmer, the mother of the late Breonna Taylor; and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the late Trayvon Martin spoke to students both in-person and through livestream about the work they do in their children's memory.

White House Health Officials Work to Reduce COVID-19 Spread in New Orleans

Appeared in New Orleans Data News Weekly

As part of the White House's “Build Back Better” policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited New Orleans to bring awareness to the efforts of the Biden-Harris administration to end the spread of COVID-19. Becerra spoke with a group of New Orleans community leaders at a vaccine drive hosted by Dillard University about possible ways of improving “vaccine confidence.”

Delta native battled two life-threatening challenges: diabetes and distance

Appeared in Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and The Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi Delta native Kaitlyn Wright was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when she was 10-years-old. Despite living in one of the most diabetic regions in the nation, the now 23-year-old recounts her struggles of having to travel hundreds of miles to find resources for her diabetes.

The Day I Heard the Words: ‘You Have Diabetes’

Appeared in Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and The Clarion-Ledger

In this column, I delved into my own journey with diabetes from my diagnosis to my ongoing battle with it. I also addressed some of the preconceived notions that I held about the disease prior to being diagnosed and ways that I could have been better educated coming from a state with one of the highest rates of diabetes.

They fled Putin's war. What's next for refugees?

Appeared in The Buffalo News

On April 21, 2022, the Biden administration announced the Uniting for Ukraine program allowing 100,000 Ukrainian citizens entry into the United States. The announcement came following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February, displacing more than 10 million citizens. Jewish Federations of North America and the Shapiro Foundation are providing grants to resettlement agencies in six cities as part of Uniting for Ukraine, including Buffalo. 

It's anything but a dog's life for lovable Lloyd

Appeared in The Buffalo News

Lloyd the Pit Bull, like any dog, took an early morning mall walk in the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, USA in Niagara Falls on Wednesday, August 10. However, he was greeted by a crowd of fans all hoping for the chance to meet the "most famous dog in Niagara County." The 12-year-old pit bull went viral after he was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure after being taken in by the Niagara County SPCA. The SPCA shared Lloyd's story and began documenting his bucket list adventures.

Ukrainian family arrives to a warm welcome in Buffalo

Appeared in The Buffalo News

In late July 2022, Maryana Polyak, 42, and her three children landed at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and were greeted by their cousin Kusia Hreshchyshyn. The trip started in Warsaw, Poland where the family lived for five months after Russia invaded their home country Ukraine in late February. Although Polyak's family was among the 5 million Ukrainians who fled to Poland, Maryana's husband, Dmytro, had to stay behind because men ages 18 to 60 are banned from leaving the country in case they are called to fight. Now in Buffalo, Maryana hopes to find stability for her family in the United States. 

HBCU Grad crowned Mrs. Universe 2022

Appeared in The Louisiana Weekly

The Ms. World Corporation crowned its first-ever Black winner of the Mrs. Universe title on Wednesday, Aug. 24. Juanita Ingram, a Tennessee native, competed against more than 75 contestants representing countries from across the globe. This was the pageant's 15th year as it distinguishes itself from other beauty competitions by including married contestants. Ingram is a graduate of Tennessee State University, a historically Black university in Nashville, Tenn. She also received an MBA and Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis.  

Jackson Residents Enter a Month without Clean Water

Appeared in New Orleans Data News Weekly

In late August 2022, heavy rainfall in central Mississippi caused the Pearl River and Ross Barnett Reservoir to rise to dangerously high flood levels. As a result, one of the two water-treatment plants for Jackson, Miss. that receives water from the reservoir was shut down. The O.B. Curtis Water Plant's failure left over 150,000 residents of Jackson without clean drinking water and low to no water pressure. Numerous schools and businesses temporarily closed and opted for virtual operations while the city was placed under a state of emergency.

Breaking Glass Ceilings: Mayor Cantrell on Her Xavier Days and Legacy

Appeared in The Xavier Herald

LaToya Cantrell moved to New Orleans, La. in 1990 and earned a sociology degree from Xavier University of Louisiana. After falling in love with Xavier, she soon fell in love with New Orleans and "found her soul." Two decades later, Cantrell's love for New Orleans put her on a path to becoming the first woman in the city's 300-year history to serve as mayor in 2017. Being the first woman mayor and first Black woman mayor, she has led the city through tough moments such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Department visits Louisiana HBCUs to strengthen foreign service diversity pipeline

Appeared in The Xavier Herald

As the U.S. Department of State seeks to diversify its ranks to better reflect the United States and its foreign partners, U.S. Ambassador Gentry Smith, the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Services, and his team of foreign officers have been deployed to HBCUs in Louisiana to encourage students to pursue careers serving abroad. The group of diverse foreign service officers visited students and administrators at Xavier on Thursday, Feb. 23. 

Nuisance ordinance proposed: Measure would allow city to fine or even close businesses

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

New Orleans would gain the power to close businesses that repeatedly host illegal drug activity, stolen property, and violence under a proposed “padlock” ordinance that drew support from most New Orleans City Council members at a hearing Monday, Jan. 30. The proposal, made by at-large Council member Helena Moreno, is set for a full council vote Thursday, Feb 2. The proposed ordinance would require problematic businesses to work with the New Orleans Police Department to fix their issues or risk $500 daily fines and emergency closure.

N.O. may ban confetti cannons after power outage

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

After a power outage on Friday, Feb. 10 during Carnival parades that may have resulted from a confetti cannon, New Orleans City Council member Joe Giarrusso said he is working on legislation to ban krewes from using the equipment. The power outage happened at about 9 p.m. during the Krewe of Cleopatra parade. Almost 1,500 Entergy customers were left without power until 10 p.m. Shortly after the outage, videos circulated on social media of a Mylar confetti cannon attached to the top of a Cleopatra float blasting toward power lines on St. Charles Avenue. The video showed the surrounding area descending into darkness after sparks flew from the power lines.

Unneutral Grounds: With little enforcement of Carnival rules, ‘early birds’ proliferate along parade routes

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

Whether it was pent-up enthusiasm or a lack of code enforcement sweeps, 2023 seemed to be the year of parade-route early birds. To many, paradegoers bogarting sections of the sidewalk and the neutral ground seemed to be worse than ever this year. On social media, photos of tarps, enclosed tents, adjoining canopies, mega-ladders, and orange plastic fencing drew condemnation from residents wondering why the city wasn’t cracking down on clear violations of the law. 

Cardell Hayes trial slated for Sept. 18

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

The man who fatally shot former Saints player Will Smith and injured his wife seven years ago will go to trial this fall, a judge decided Monday March 6, marking the latest delay in a series of failed trial dates over the past year. Cardell Hayes, 35, is charged in the April 2016 shooting death of Smith in the Lower Garden District. He is also accused of shooting Smith’s wife, Racquel. Hayes’ trial has been rescheduled at least four times, the result of a lack of jurors, pandemic-related pauses, Hurricane Ida and a rare motion by prosecutors to change the trial’s location. 

N.O. seeks to fill youth positions: Jobs open for teens as camp counselors, lifeguards

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

After struggling to fill many summer jobs in recent years, New Orleans officials are doubling down on efforts to sign up teens for work as camp counselors, lifeguards and other positions. The plans are all for the purpose of getting the city’s pools and summer camps open and filled to levels comparable to before the pandemic. In February, the City Council passed an ordinance adding $1.9 million to the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development to increase participation in the city’s youth programming. The additional funding will be used to increase the number of summer jobs from 365 to 1,000 via NOLA Youth Works, which is a program that provides summer experiences for local youth ages 13 to 21.

N.O. senior chooses Cornell

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

New Orleans high school senior Dennis "Maliq" Barnes made national news for receiving more than 180 college acceptances and more than $10 million in scholarship offers, which is a national record. Previously, the record was held by a Lafayette high school senior in 2019. The 16-year-old, who attends the International High School of New Orleans, announced his decision to attend Cornell University. He plans to enroll in Cornell's College of Engineering and pursue a degree in computer science. 

Murder trial set for November

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

The trial of four teenagers accused of killing an elderly New Orleans woman is now set for November. The date was set after delays with the defendants' attorneys in analyzing DNA evidence. Before the date for November was set, some parties feared the trial would be pushed to the next year. In March 2022, Linda Frickey, 73, was attacked and dragged for a block while being pushed out of her sports utility vehicle. The attackers fled the scene in her vehicle. John Honore, 18, Lenyra Theophile, 17, Briniyah Baker, 16, and Mar'Qel Curtis were arrested and charged as adults with second-degree murder. Each teenager has pleaded not guilty and is being held on a $1 million bail.

TikTok banned on government devices

Appeared in The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate

The state of Louisiana has banned the use of TikTok on state-owned devices and networks after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a law restricting the China-based social media app and other related apps. House Bill 361, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Deshotel, R-Marksville, bans the use of the popular app on all state-owned equipment. Edwards signed the bill into law on June 13. The ban is a result of recent concerns about cybersecurity in government agencies following a string of cyberattacks in Louisiana. In June, the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles experienced a massive data breach. Deshotel said he believes the ban is another "level of protection" for the state.

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