Life After Release Opens New Office in Suitland
Life After Release, an organization led by formerly incarcerated women that fights for the rights of returning citizens and more, opened their new office on Silver Hill Road in Suitland on June 22. Their event included the chance for attendees to get their brake lights replaced or their criminal records expunged. Qiana Johnson, an advocate who has fought adamantly for returning citizens for years, is the organization’s leader.
“I lucked up,” said Johnson at the office opening after introducing Councilwoman Krystal Oriadha, who has been a strong ally of the organization for years. “I’m in her district. Our office is right here in her district. No matter the time of day or night, she’s been a help.”
At-Large Prince George’s Council member Calvin Hawkins (D) offered a proclamation at the grand opening. Natasha Dartigue, the first Black Chief Defender for the state, was also in attendance.
Afeni Evans, who works with the organization, shared some of Life After Release’s goals.
“Life After Release’s vision is to build grassroots organizing capacity and public support for ending mass pretrial detention in Maryland. We dream of building a voting block of 50,000 formerly incarcerated Marylanders aligned with the vision of ending felony disenfranchisement and mass incarceration,” said Evans.
“Every day, our Black people are being jailed and brought to criminal court without real evidence or cause. They are losing their livelihoods, homes, and families in the process. For many, things take a very bad turn when they are taken away by the legal system. There has been a national trend within the last 10 years of the increase of women’s jail admissions in the nation and in Maryland.” Their mission is particularly important as Prison Policy Initiative data shows that Maryland’s incarceration rate of 531 per 100,000 residents is more than almost any democracy on Earth, and Maryland is a national leader in incarcerating young Black men in particular.
To learn more about Life After Release or support the organization’s efforts, go to lifeafterrelease.org.
Vic’s Homemade Goodies Brings Delicacies to Local Farmers’ Market
Every Sunday morning from late May to October is the Bowie Farmers’ Market, located in front of the Bowie Library. There, guests can find an assortment of vendors, who offer their own takes on produce, beverages and baked goods.
Vicky Rookard, the owner of Vic’s Homemade Goodies based out of Upper Marlboro, offers very popular cakes and brownies to the weekly audience.
“The Bowie Farmers’ Market has been an excellent opportunity to expand my business… When I first arrived at the market I only sold my homemade soft chew granola in the original and tropical flavors,” she said.
“Sales were good, but since the farmers’ market already had a baker, I was limited in what I could sell. Fast forward to the next spring: the other baker didn’t return and I was able to expand my selection of homemade goodies, incorporate new cake flavors yearly, start my website, and stay busy during non-market time with orders from customers with holiday orders,” Rookard told The Informer. “I love this farmers’ market and all its wonderful people who support me.”
Her most popular offerings are her lemon and rum cake, although her strawberry and cinnamon cakes are also absolutely delicious.
“Nobody makes a good rum cake anymore since the days of Giant, when they had the bakery in store,” said Rookard. “Lemon cake is that Sunday, after church old school staple in many African American homes. My personal favorite is the cinnamon roll cake with cream cheese icing.”
More information, including the total list of Bowie Farmers’ Market vendors, is available here.
Black People Die by Suicide Too Founds New Nonprofit
July is Black, Indigenous and People of Color Mental Health Month, a month that highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of groups historically oppressed and disenfranchised within the United States. That’s part of why this month, a local organization with a focus on awareness and prevention of suicide among African Americans is now forming a nonprofit to continue their advocacy.
The first fundraiser for the newly-founded nonprofit Black People Die by Suicide Too will be held from 2-4 p.m. on July 30 at YoShow Place in Rockville. The event is limited to 30 attendees with a fundraising goal of $5,000. All proceeds will go towards suicide prevention.
At the fundraiser, guests can expect a candid conversation from Black women in mental health treatment who have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, or who have survived past suicide thoughts.
Some of the speakers will include organization co-founders T-Kea Blackman and Jordan Scott; Courtney Anderson-Harvey, owner of A Resting Place Counseling; and Graceland Therapeutics CEO Jillian Pelzer. Both Anderson-Harvey and Pelzer are also lead therapists at their respective practices.
“I grew up hearing suicide and therapy is a white people thing,” said Blackman, Black People Die by Suicide Too co-founder and executive director. “After surviving a suicide attempt, my 13-year-old cousin dying by suicide, and hearing stories of others in my community, I quickly learned that’s not true. While there is a stigma regardless of race and ethnicity, there is a unique stigma in the Black community. Many Black people often feel that since we made it through slavery, we shouldn’t struggle with depression.”
Particularly due to the mental health challenges of the pandemic, suicide has become an increasing cause of death across America. Early adolescent Black youth are twice as likely to die by suicide as compared to their white counterparts, but the highest rate of death is among Black Americans ages 25-34 years of age, according to Rheeda Walker, professor of psychology and director, University of Houston’s Culture, Risk, and Resilience Lab.