While Germany awaits its next and new Chancellor, there is growing anxiety throughout the country, following general elections held there this Sunday, September 27, 2021. In all States and cities in Germany, the country’s eligible voters turned out massively to cast their ballots and sound their voices in sensitive decisions expected to change the dynamics of German politics.

Even though Germany has not experienced any significant crisis at the helm, Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union, CDU’s 16-years-old administration would naturally be tiresome to addicts of change. Once the results are proclaimed, one thing would be clear – Angela Merkel, generally believed to have been on top of her time at the Chancellery, will be history to the prestigious office. Who succeeds the 67-years-old daughter of Hamburg, is what the country looks forward to.

However, Germans, just as other people, interested in living good lives by being represented worthily, have chosen who they think can do the job at parliament. Amongst the lucky to-be law makers, reports say, is the Cameroonian-born Armand Zorn who makes it to the Budestag.

With a population of 83.2 million people (2019) and known to be one of the strongest economies in Europe, Germany enjoys a parliamentary system of government which has been an assuring factor to political stability. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a liberal-conservative outfit, is the party to which the out-going Chancellor belongs. She rose to the Chancellery on the party’s ticket in 2005 as the first female Chancellor in Germany and was re-elected in 2013.

Details on the German elections in subsequent posts!

USCIS mandates Covid19 vaccination for Green Card applicants

Originally Posted by:  , September 14, 2021

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS has announced that individuals applying to become a lawful permanent resident, and other applicants as deemed necessary, must undergo an immigration medical exam to show they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete an immigration medical examination beginning from October 1, 2021.

“Effective October 1, 2021, applicants subject to the immigration medical examination must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the civil surgeon can complete an immigration medical examination and sign Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record,” said the USCIS in a statement.

“This guidance applies prospectively to Form I-693 signed by civil surgeons on or after October 1, 2021.”

It said that “USCIS is updating its policy guidance in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s August 17, 2021, update to the Technical Instructions for Civil Surgeons.”

“We are working on updating Form I-693 and the form instructions to incorporate this new requirement.”

“Applicants must complete the COVID-19 vaccine series (one or two doses, depending on the vaccine) and provide documentation of vaccination to a USCIS-designated civil surgeon before completion of the immigration medical examination.”

Individuals applying to become a lawful permanent resident, and other applicants as deemed necessary, must undergo an immigration medical exam to show they are free from any conditions that would render them inadmissible under the health-related grounds.

USCIS designates eligible physicians as civil surgeons to perform this immigration medical examination for applicants within the United States and to document the results of the immigration medical examination on Form I-693.

However, USCIS may grant a blanket waiver if a vaccine is:

  • Not age appropriate;
  • Contraindicated due to a medical condition;
  • Not routinely available in the state where the civil surgeon practices; or
  • Limited in supply and would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive the vaccination.
  • Individuals may also apply for waivers based on religious beliefs or moral convictions by submitting Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.

Columbus Mayor Ginther signs executive order on wearing a mask in public places Friday, Sept. 10

Originally Posted by: , September 8, 2021

By Deba Uwadiae and Okon Ekpenyong

Columbus Ohio Mayor Andrew Ginther will sign an executive order on Friday, September 10, 2021, mandating face mask indoors and in public places to mitigate the rising hospitalizations in the new coronavirus cases in the city.

“New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. The strain on our medical and public health professionals has reached a breaking point. Vaccines are the best defense, but we must do more. I am signing an executive order mandating mask while indoors,” said Mayor Andrew Ginter.

Mayor Andrew Ginther who joined the city’s Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts and the region’s chief medical officers to provide an update on new plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the City of Columbus said, “masks add an extra layer of protection — especially for our young children who are too young to be vaccinated.:

“Do your part. Get vaccinated and mask up. We can do this.”

Also, Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said, “as the delta variant continues to surge and we prepare to administer booster vaccines in our community, this vaccine requirement will help protect our workforce and the people we serve from COVID-19 which is spreading like wildfire here and across the country.”

On the vaccination incentive of “Get a free covid-19 vaccine and get $100’ which is expected to end on Friday, September 10, 2021, Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said, “there will be an extension of the incentives and it will go into effect on Friday.”

“Anyone who is eligible for the vaccine is eligible to get the $100 vis cash card onsite when they receive the shot.”

She said, however, that the centers will be reduced because of staff strength to operate them.

Over 13,000 persons and an average of 300 a day have been vaccinated since the introduction of the walk-in centers.

Columbus Weekend of Festivities

Originally Posted by:  , September 6, 2021
Okon Ekpenyong

Columbus Caribbean Festival held its fourth annual celebration on September 4th and 5th, 2021 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio. The event returned to action after canceling last year’s festival due to state mandates.

Celebrity Style Events, the organizer of this year’s event, wanted to ensure that the location could accommodate over eight thousand people, which is generally the type of crowd the event generates. Overnight camping accommodations were an option for those that wanted to experience all of the festivities that this year’s event had to offer, which included the carnival, Caribbean culture, and of course, the food.

Columbus Council President Shannon Hardin’s 7th annual Pig Roast and Fish Fry saw a huge turn-out this year at the Franklin Park Conservatory. Cars were lining up from the first entrance on Broad Street and continuing on Conservatory Drive, even passing the Franklin Park Conservatory Garden with its plant and art exhibition center.

The event was free for all to pick up at the Wells Barn parking lot, but tickets were required ahead of time to ensure enough meals were available for everyone. Equitas Health was on-site, providing free vaccination to help slow down the spread of Coronavirus.

Greater Southeast Area Commissioner, Peaches Anderson, was one of the attendees who received the shot at the event.

“A personal decision to get the Covid shot can be difficult, but deciding for a mother and community member, and leader takes no contemplation. As I was leaving President Shannon Hardin’s Fish Fry and pig Roast, I saw a tent offering free and easy Covid shots. I parked my car and headed proudly towards the tent. It was quick, easy, and painless. I felt as if I was one person that medical staff won’t have to care for, and I’m one more person who isn’t passing Covid to others. In short, by getting the shot, I’m no longer a part of the problem, but I’m a community member who is caring for others with my actions”, Anderson said.

Some of this year’s volunteers were city workers, council members, school board members, and candidates running in this year’s election in Central Ohio.  Four meals per vehicle was the maximum allowed to accommodate all of those who registered on Eventbrite.

“Service up meals at Council President Hardin’s Annual Pig Roast with other servants and candidates was so much fun! To see so many public servants spending time literally serving the public was inspirational,” Rena Shak said (Judicial candidate for Franklin County Municipal Court Judge).

Picture Credit: Rena Shak

The city of Obetz had its annual Zucchini Fest, which usually draws thousands every year for four days straight. The event started on Friday, September 3rd, and runs through Monday, September 6th.

The festival celebrates everything that has to do with Zucchini, and it takes place at the Obetz Athletic Club. Attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy parades, pageants, and car shows. And to top it all, they will have the chance to enjoy free music, including listening to local and national recording artists. Two thousand twenty-one musical headliner was the country music singing duo featuring Troy known for their biggest hit “save a horse ride a cowboy,” took center stage on Sunday, September 5th.

The 48th Annual Greek Festival is taking place this year at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral from Friday, September 3rd through Monday, September 6th, 2021.

It is a chance for the community to learn about Greek culture, the ancestry of Greece, and how faith plays a vital role in its heritage.

Rena Shak is a judicial candidate running in this year’s municipal race, and her family is from Greece. “The Annunciation’s Greek Festival is a chance for the Columbus community to celebrate the Greek heritage!  Greek culture is rooted in hospitality, delicious food, religion, music, dancing, and community, and the festival brings all of that to our neighbors! I love volunteering at the festival, serving my church, and sharing my culture with all of our visitors!”

Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao and Ohio State Representative Dontavius Jarrells Picture Credit: Okon Ekpenyong 

A Festival of Meeting as Columbus Africans in Diaspora meet Prof PLO Lumumba

By Okon Ekpenyong

The anticipation had to meet the expectation when a well-known legal scholar and activist, Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba from Kenya, popular across the continent of Africa, stopped in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, July 24, 2021, as part of a one-month tour of the United States.

Accompanying the Pan-Africanist to Columbus was Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, a former diplomat to the U.S. who served as the President of the Africa Union.

Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao and Ohio State Representative Dontavius Jarrells Picture Credit: Okon Ekpenyong 
Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao and Ohio State Representative Dontavius Jarrells Picture Credit: Okon Ekpenyong

The visit brought professionals and academics from the different communities including African America, Somali, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria together to listen to the current Director of the Kenyan School of Law speak on a wide range of issues crucial to the African Diaspora.

One Voice Global Consortium, an umbrella organization that focuses on working together with other Diaspora individuals and its organizations when addressing governmental and or international agencies, brought the African Civil Rights Leaders to the main stage.

The first speaker of the night was the honorable Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, originally from Zimbabwe. Dr. Arikana served as the African Union Permanent Ambassador to the U.S.A. from 2010-2019. Before that role, she served as the C.E.O. and founder of Bell Family Medical Centers in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In 1996. The late Nelson Mandela of the Republic of South Africa presented Dr. Arikana with the Achievement Award for her contributions to Africa.

Throughout her delivery at “Angaza Festival Conference,” Dr. Arikana captivated the audience by consistently encouraging everybody to elevate the diaspora because nothing can stop the movement if all hands are on deck.

As she spoke, the audience often stood up, clapping. In those moments, and it became clear that keeping the African heritage alive and teaching future generations about the importance of Education, responsibilities, and the growth of Africa will not just be a job of one person.

“There are more Nigerian Doctors in Los Angeles than in Nigeria combined, and there are more Kenyan Doctors in New York than in Kenya combined,” Dr. Arikana said.

Having such a high ratio, how does anyone expect Africa to solve its health care system issues?

Tuamsen Shepkong, a college professor at Central Ohio Technical College and the head of the Columbus African Festival, said that he first met the former President of the African Union 2018 in Houston. She spoke very eloquently while ensuring that her mission to improve the quality of life for all African immigrants living abroad and those living in the continent of Africa was why we are all here.

P.L.O.’s visit to Columbus drew a large audience. “If we do not have a sense of history, we cannot have an appreciation of the brethren, and if we do not have an appreciation of the present, we do not have the protection of the future,”Lumumba said.

“There is an African saying which states that, “Mountains don’t meet, man do.”

“And it was my pleasure meeting with such iconic Pan-Africanist Professor Patrick Lumumba, ” said Engineer Mohamad, a member of the Somali community who was meeting Prof Lumumba for the first time.

“In all his speeches, it is always about unifying and uplifting people of African descent,” Mohammed added.

Ohio State Representative Dontavius Jarrells representing the 25th district spoke on behalf of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who was initially on the list as guest speaker.

“I hope if you come to my office, show up, show your power because your voice is what I take with me every day to that statehouse. It is the people’s house because the things happening in Africa and this country are happening right here in your neighborhood. It’s so important that we became a hit because of you,” Jarrells said.

Speaking on behalf of the Somali community and the office of the Mayor of Columbus was Abdikhayr Soofe. He presented P.L.O Lumumba, “the resolution of expression,” which honors his work to fight corruption and racism.

The event took place at the Ohio School for the Deaf Alumni Association in Westerville.

Oringinally Posted by:  , July 28, 2021

Gun violence and mothers’ pain

Posted by:  , August 3, 2021

By Okon Ekpenyong

Violence through small arms has been one of the most dreaded causes of death in several communities in the United States. Even without mentioning statistics, it is commonly observed that people of color have been victims to this ill, more than others.

Apparently, the group that seems to have suffered the trauma that comes along with gun murder more, is mothers of the victims. At every such unfortunate incident, they are seen on television lamenting their ordeal and struggling to deal with the brutal circumstances.

Photo Credit: Dontavius Jarrells

In some weird cases, these women have had to deal with the fact that the perpetrators are acquitted right in their presence, and they would have to live like losers forever.

In a bid to lighten the weight on mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to gun violence, Central Ohio community leaders converged on the Statehouse lawn at downtown Columbus, Sunday, August 1, 2021, to share in the former’s burden.

The three-hours rally brought together concerned Ohioans, including the women affected by this ill and the main message whipped across was that gun violence should stop.

At the peace-motivated rally, sympathizers called for a ceasefire within 24 hours and hoped that senseless gun killings would be a thing of the past.

In recent years, there has been a disturbing rise in gun killings in the United States. The most conspicuous cases have erupted from the antagonism between the police and young Black men. Some of the incidents have sparked huge riots that have inspired conversations on the need to review gun laws in the country.

Picture credit: Okon

Morgan Harper seeks a new path forward

By Okon Ekpenyong

Picture credit: Okon
Picture credit: Okon

In the world of politics, even one defeat can seem like you have fallen seven times.  However, in Proverbs 24:16, we learn that we should never give up, and sometimes you have to lose to know what it is like to stand up tall. “Even the greatest falls seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”

Like the story of David versus Goliath, David only had a sling and a pouch full of stone, and Goliath was equipped with a sword and a shield.  In the end, guess who ended up smiling after all; it was David. Yes, often we become victorious the first time we are doing something, and in other situations, it is usually not a walk in the park.

For example, running for office against an opponent with more experience in local and state government can seem to be a scary thing. And regardless of how many years a candidate spends forming connections with local and national community leaders, making a name for oneself in a district that often seems very divided between conservative’s and liberals’ values is about finding a balance at the end of the day.

It is one of the things voters look for when deciding between two opponents regardless of the party line. That’s why a candidate’s policy in the beginning and the end should always be consistent. However, politics is often about personal attacks from an opponent, and the media sometimes encourages such behaviors during election seasons. Yet, Morgan Harper, who just announced her candidacy for the Ohio U.S Senator race, is not afraid of those challenges.

November of 2019 is when I first met Morgan Harper. She was a candidate for the Ohio 3rd Congressional district. As a young reporter during that time, I felt nervous because they didn’t know who I was, and all I knew about each candidate was what I read on paper and heard on the streets. After a brief conversation with Harper at one of the events I attended, all I could think of was, “she is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, twin sister. Both are progressive democrats, endorsed by Justice Democrats, are against candidates taking major corporations’ money and appeal to the young millennials.”

Harper is the co-founder of “Columbus Stand Up,” an organization that puts money where their mouth is, meaning they are supporting various causes in the community. They provide masks, encourage residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine shots, showing up in rallies to support social changes, and are active throughout the year, urging voters to get out there and vote.

Co-founding such an important organization to help improve the community’s quality of life speaks volumes, but that’s not where her journey in public service began. At the federal level, she worked as a senior advisor under the former director of

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray. She graduated from Stanford Law School and earned a Master of public affairs at Princeton University.

She works with mothers who lost their loved ones to gun violence by urging elected officials to do more to address such an epidemic.

Harper understands that a candidate must travel throughout the state in the U.S senate race, appealing to conservatives and liberals voters. Some districts are rural areas, and some are urban. Meaning, there are different experiences an individual may come across living in both areas.

Nevertheless, Harper’s last race in the Ohio 3rd congressional district put her on the national stage despite losing to long-term incumbent Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. So, On August 18th, when the headlines read, Harper enters the U.S Senate race, almost every national media wrote a column about the announcement.

For an individual whose beginnings started in a foster care system but ends up in the U.S Senate race, it proves that your beginnings are not your ending.

Posted by:  , August 22, 2021

Writer: Okon Ekpenyong

Editor: Deba Uwadiae

Raising awareness on mental health with “Walking in my Blessings” Golf Classic

By Michael Moore and Okon Ekpenyong

Picture Credit: Les Rutland
Picture Credit: Les Rutland

It was perfect weather for the 4th Annual John A. Moman Memorial Golf Classic held at the prestigious Winchester Golf Course in Canal Winchester, Ohio with over 80 participants.  The very well-landscaped golf course sits in the middle of one of Canal Winchester’s most beautiful residential neighborhoods.

The John A. Moman Golf Classic organizer and founder, Chevez Moman, created “Walking in My Blessings.” The efforts and goals are to raise awareness in the African American community on mental health, provide a safe space where an open discussion on mental stress and trauma can be spoken about, and provide support as a community. All donations will benefit the efforts of “Walking in My Blessings.”

Community activists, council members, family, and friends all came out to show their support for this great event and enjoy a little golfing at the same time. Legendary coach James ” Satch” Sullinger, father of former Ohio State basketball star Jared Sullinger, was also in attendance.

“We have tried everything else except for unity,” Sullinger said.

Al Edmonson, a well-known community leader across Central Ohio, had the longest drive contest at 289 yards on a par five. The Golf classic Courage Award went to Mr. Craig Avery Sr, who is battling cancer. Despite undergoing chemotherapy every week, he always finds the time to golf with friends and family every Sunday, including the Jam Memorial Classic.

Chuck Brown, Robert Thomas, Glenn Collins, and New York Sam were this year’s winning duo shooting under 61 for the classic.

Stacie Baker, a council member representing the entire city of Reynoldsburg, was one of the players.

“Being able to support a great event like the Jam memorial golf tournament is a win because this event promotes giving back to the community,” said Stacie Baker.

“It is truly an honor and privilege to support the Jam Memorial classic. When an African American male in the community gives back, and the local entrepreneurs and business leaders support scholarship and service, it lifts our entire community”, Councilwoman Meredith Lawson-Row said. The event was a complete success, to say the least, having over 80 golfers come out to show support and unity, not just in the neighborhood but in the entire.

Originally posted by , August 31, 2021

Editor: Deba Uwadiae

Restored! A Jay Pullen helping to restore citizens like himself

Photo credit: A. Jay Pullen
Photo credit: A. Jay Pullen

Since May of 2020, A Jay Pullen has served as the Worthington Alliance of Black Families and Educators president. But before that role, he volunteered for numerous causes advocating for change in the lives of youth and adults throughout Central Ohio. From July 2013 through June 2017, Pullen served as the Drug Awareness Committee Co-chair for the Westerville City Schools. He also served as the PTSO President for the Thomas Worthington High school and was a mentor for the Alvis, Inc. Alvis is a second chance recovery nonprofit organization that works with adults re-entering the workforce and getting their lives back on track. Pullen worked for the Central Ohio Youth and Adult Program for four years as a program manager and executive director.

A. Jay Pullen graduated from the Colorado Christian University online campus with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and completed his master’s degree in Public Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. His passion for the youth and working with adults is a way to change the status quo in the community that he grew up in that often gets overlooked.

How does the phrase “Prevention is better than Cure” help define the “People like me Project”?

I feel that Prevention is very important. If we can prevent a young person or individual from doing drug or doing crime, that is the goal. We are trying to break and prevent generational curses and having people become better.

As a youth pastor, how does that role help with the success of the People like me Project?

As a former Youth Pastor faith has guided me and many others throughout this Journey. You have to be prayerful to deal with God’s work. Even though we are not a faith-based organization, but we were built on biblical principles. We teach that to our participants daily. You have to have faith to get this work done for sure, because faith without works is dead.

You previously served as a mentor for the Alvis Re-Entry Program. Because such an initiative is good for our community, how do the People like me Project (PLMP) continues to be a gateway of second chances?

As a Restored Citizen I feel that I have to give back and help others succeed. People Like Me Project helps connect resources for Restored Citizens like me. We help with housing, employment, and other wrap-around services.

What is the initiative behind the People like me Project?

It’s my personal story and testimony. I wanted to help people that were in the same or similar situations. Guilt and fear can hold a person back. I wanted to create a platform for individuals that they can no longer feel ashamed about their past. It’s not about what you have done, but where you are going. Pick yourself up and get back in line. I just want to empower people and have a no judgement zone.

Young African American journey to success often comes with multiple trials and tribulations; how has the Central Ohio Honors helped connect the youth and individuals with different professions to make a difference.

It is having the youth see someone that looks like them and from their community. Young people need someone to look up to positively. So, the Honors Events have broadened their horizons.

In 2020, while we were under a global pandemic, the world witnessed George Floyd’s death. What were some community engagement activities and outlets that the organization made available as a coping mechanism for those in need?

We did a lot of Community Conversation events. Talking about the problems in the word and in the community. We protested and also educated people on the issues. Racism never went away but I feel that we must keep addressing it and keep the conversation going.

You have a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and currently pursuing a master’s in Public Administration. What is the outlet program?

Yes. The Outlet Program is a community-based prevention program for young males ages 10-18.

Community Engagement: What are some of the special events that the People Like Me Project is involved in? In what ways is it making a difference in the community?

Since the pandemic, we have been host Helping Hands Events monthly. These events have helped over 2000 people. We have provided clothing, school supplies, food, personal care, and cleaning items for people in need. Also, we are providing resources to the community. We have helped 230 individuals obtain permanent employment during this crisis

There are two honors, Miami Valley and Central Ohio: Sheed light on its mission.

Yes. To recognize the achievements of African Americans in the community that is not only speaking of change but are making a positive impact within the community.

Men like me will be a new initiative for the organization; when does it launch, and whom will it benefit?

Men Like Me is our Fatherhood and Re-Entry program. It will focus on parenting and re-entry services. This program will be open to males 18 and up that have insolvent with the criminal justice system in Franklin County.

Writer: Okon Ekpenyong

Editor: Deba Uwadiae

originally posted on Posted by: , August 31, 2021