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

A DIFFERENT TIME, A DIFFERENT PLACE

A DIFFERENT TIME, A DIFFERENT PLACE

By
Tonisha Chapman

 

June 25, 2021

In sports, we always like to discuss “Who is the Greatest of all Time.” However, the discussion often goes more in the world of basketball these days. Ever since LeBron James stepped on the basketball scene and proclaimed himself “King James,” the comparison discussion has begun about Lebron vs. Michael.

This particular discussion brings out everyone’s point of view and their criteria for determining who deserves the title “The Greatest of All Time.” For example, some people look at how many championships an individual has, while others want to throw statistics and off-court actions into the mix.

On the note of statistics and off-the-court actions, those are not valid in my opinion because you are talking about two highly different times when it comes to the climate of the NBA. When Jordan entered the league, the norm was for players to go to college for at least three years and then enter the NBA draft.

These days, you can go after one year of college or directly from high school. So when people want to start trying to compare LeBron & Michel’s stats, I say, “not valid, because LeBron has five years minimum on Michael Jordan.” Remember Michael Jordan when to college for three years, and took a 2 ½ season break after the killing of this father and then retired in 1998, then he came back two years later in 2000. So LeBron has seven years on Michael as far as years in the league, so it does make sense that LeBron would surpass Michael Jordan in some, if not all, stats.

The other criteria factors what LeBron & Michael have done off the court with their “athlete celebrity status.” Some believe that LeBron surpasses Michael because of everything he has done in the community, especially with the racial injustice situations worldwide in the past couple of years.

Some believe that Michael Jordan was a sell-out off the court, especially after his infamous comment, “Republicans buy shoes also.” However, when you look at the climate of the NBA then and now, you can tell that there is a big difference. When Jordan was playing, the owners had more control over basketball operations and the player’s actions off the court. Players did not have the power to be able to vocal like they do today.

Before the players gained control of the league, they had to choose their battles carefully because each move could have affected them financially in a big way. Now the players have more control of the league. Now they can dictate where they go, who they wish to play with, and what organization. Also, I do think social media has given the players more power as well. On another note about player power and control, I heard some compare what Aaron Rodgers is doing in Green Bay to how Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen handled things in Chicago when they discovered that the general manager wanted to replace them.

It was commented on that what Michael and Scottie did was a bad thing. However, it was not because they did not have the control to get rid of the general manager like they do today. So before people judge Michael for his off-the-court contributions or lack thereof. His statistics at the end of his career and how he handled certain situations with management. Remember this he didn’t have the control and power that LeBron, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, etc., has today. Back then, the front office controlled daily operations, and now it seems a player has more control. These days, players have the power to be vocal and have the ability of social media to assist their causes. Just remember this:

A DIFFERENT TIME, A DIFFERENT NBA

No. 15 OSU looks to rebound after a tough loss

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After the postponement of Sunday’s game, No. 15 Ohio State will get back out on the court Thursday afternoon when it hosts Purdue. This will be the lone meeting between the two teams this season. Both teams are looking to get back on track as each is coming off a loss their last time out. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be streamed live on BTN Plus+

Ohio State and Purdue are hooking up for the lone time this season when the two teams meet at Value City Arena on Thursday. The Buckeyes hold a 47-31 edge in the all-time series between the B1G foes and are 24-9 in games played in Columbus. Ohio State is itching to get back out on the court as well as not have played in over a week because of the postponement of the Northwestern game on Sunday. The Buckeyes are 12-3 on the season and 8-3 in Big Ten play.
Purdue opened conference action 2-1 with wins over Penn State and Nebraska but has since dropped nine of its last 10 including five straight. The Boilermakers are coming off a 75-57 setback to Rutgers at home last Sunday. Kayana Traylor (13.9 ppg) and Brooke Moore (10.9) are the two Boilermakers averaging in double figures. Dorka Juhasz was named to the Naismith Midseason Player of the Year Watch List. She is one of five players from the Big Ten on the list.  Juhasz is riding a five-game double-double streak. That is the longest streak since Jantel Lavender did it five games in a row in 2010. Juhasz is also just 89 points away from 1,000 in her career.

Aaliyah Patty had her streak of seven consecutive games with 10 or more points snapped on Wednesday at Wisconsin. But she is still averaging 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season.  All five Buckeye starters are averaging in double-figures led by Jacy Sheldon at 16.3 ppg.  Braxtin Miller is the team’s leader both on and off the court but the Buckeyes sure need her on the court. Her numbers may not be eye-popping but her veteran presence can’t be quantified by a number. She fouled-out for the second time this season and just the third time in her collegiate career on Wednesday. The Buckeyes have lost both times she has fouled-out and Oklahoma State also lost to Iowa State on Jan. 24, 2018.  Miller has had at least one steal in every game but the first game this season.

15/11 Ohio State vs. Purdue
Date: Feb. 18, 2021
Time: 4:00 p.m.
Venue: Columbus, Ohio — Value City Aren

Martha Ermias (Personal & Business Coach) talks about adapting in COVID-19 times

Experts say the impact of COVID-19 has been much more damaging psychologically than health wise. Though there have been over 2 million 30 thousand deaths so far, 60 million others have survived the disease. However, everyone has suffered the effect of the pandemic in one way or the other. One of the greatest impacts of the Coronavirus has been global stress which could be stronger and more dangerous at individual level. Prior to COVID-19, motivational speakers engaged their audiences in topics far different from an unexpected pandemic. Now amid the Coronavirus and the stress that has accompanied it, has motivational speaking adapted to the topic of the day. Martha Ermias is a leading motivational speaker in the Ethiopian and Eritrean community in the United States. She joins us to explain how COVID-19 has shaped her thoughts.