Remembering April

(originally published in the January 2008 issue of The Washingtonian)

My friend and I had a lot in common—including mistrustful boyfriends. I finally broke free. April wasn’t so lucky.

I always thought I was popular, but on the night of September 16, 2005, I was sure of it. As I sat in a sorority meeting at American University, my cell phone vibrated about 30 times in the pocket of my jeans.

During a break, I went into the hall to check my calls. I saw the names of fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation internship program, in which I’d taken part that summer. I thought they were calling to say they were in town for the organization’s conference. I called one of them back.

“Jackie, are you sitting down?” my friend asked.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“Baby, they found April’s body. April’s dead.” Continue reading

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Black Orphans: Latin America Rejects Its Own

(originally posted on June 15, 2008 on

I was at lunch at Guapo’s, a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., eating a chicken quesadilla, humming to a Marco Antonio Solís ballad playing in the background. I was in my element—good food, good conversation and good music. All of that enjoyment was brought to a screeching halt, however, with a simple question from my lunch date.

It was like those scenes in the movies when some life-altering news is shared, the protagonist drops her glass of wine, and the music stops as the camera zooms in for a close-up of her startled face.

“Do you feel like Latin America is yours? Do you claim it?” my African-American friend asked.

Continue reading

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To spank or not to spank

Photo courtesy of
Despite experts’ warnings, American parents spank their children to promote good behavior

(originally posted on March 21, 2007 by The American Observer)

Jennifer Greene, 21, learned to pronounce words and phrases months before her first birthday and was smart-mouthing her parents by the time she was 2.

Her smart mouth often got her into trouble.

“When I started talking, I got popped in the mouth,” said Greene. “When I hit 2 or 3, they popped my butt with their hand.”

By the time she was 13, when she got “sassy” with her parents, her mother hit her first with her hands, then with a belt.

“They spanked the hell out of me,” said Greene, who remembers being angry while getting her punishment, but now understands why she was spanked. “I’m a better person for it,” she said.

If Democratic California assemblywoman Sally Lieber has her way, parents could face jail time and a fine for hitting children under age 3. Lieber introduced the Child Abuse and Infant/Toddler Protection Bill last week, reviving an age-old debate over disciplining children. Continue reading

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Online social networking no-no’s

(originally posted by The American Observer on March 7, 2007)

We all know that social networking on the World Wide Web is a fun way to communicate with friends and meet new people. But, on the Web, there are no take backs.

1. Never announce a new relationship

You may want to tell everyone how much you love your new beau, but when that relationship ends, there’s nothing more embarrassing than having to live with an online reminder of what was and what could have been. If you’re changing your relationship status every time you log on, stop! Publish few pictures of you and your mate, respond to your friends’ comments about the relationship in private messages, and avoid exchanging public love letters with your sweetheart.

2. Never announce the end of a relationship

Let’s face it, there’s nothing like getting revenge on your ex by changing your relationship status from “In a Relationship” to “Single,” changing your favorite song from Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” and replacing the old lovey-dovey pictures of you and your former beloved with raunchy pictures of you and a nameless hot-body. But, when the anger leaves — and it will — you’ll realize that you’ve only made yourself look bad and that your ex will probably not even care half as much as you expected. Continue reading

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Pharmacists say ‘no’ to Plan B

(originally published on February 14, 2007 by The American Observer)

Photo by Edythe Cooke

Pharmacists may have the final say in the Plan B debate. Six months after the FDA approved the over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraception, pharmacists may now refuse to sell it.

According to Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the manufacturer of Plan B, the emergency contraception is effective for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, but it is most effective within the first 24 hours.

If a woman assumes that she can purchase Plan B at her local pharmacy and her pharmacist refuses to dispense the emergency birth control because of his or her moral beliefs, she will have to locate another pharmacy where she can purchase it. As the hours pass by, the effectiveness of Plan B decreases. Laws protecting pharmacists’ moral beliefs, known as conscience clauses, may prevent some women from accessing Plan B, also known as the “morning-after pill.”

State legislation allows pharmacists to deny service to patients if they believe that the service goes against their conscience and personal convictions. On the other hand, pharmacists are also obligated to promote public health, safety and welfare. Can pharmacists fulfill these obligations if they refuse to dispense drugs based on their moral beliefs? Continue reading

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On the Green Line: Me and “U”

(originally posted on February 14, 2007 by The American Observer with additional reporting by Erin Donahugh)

* Only brokenhearted
** Just a little crush
*** Crazy About U
**** I’m going to love U forever

Love Cafe
1501 U St. NW
Metro Proximity: 3 blocks
Heartbeats: ***

Observer photo by Erin Donaghue
These cupcakes at Love Cafe are all you need to sweeten your Valentine’s Day.

Whether you’re treating your sweetheart or looking for a new treat, this intimate coffee and cake shop has just what you need to satisfy even the most discriminating sweet tooth. Dim lighting and old-school love songs set the mood for a romantic date while the cozy, informal seating and fun decor make it easy to strike up a conversation with someone new.

Crowd: Love Cafe sits on historic U Street, attracting hip district natives and curious tourists ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s.

Pick: Close your eyes and sink your teeth into the strawberry-frosted vanilla cupcake. The bits of fresh strawberries mixed with the thick, sugary icing give a surprisingly refreshing twist to this indulgence.

Ups: The Love Cafe offers free WIFI. So if you don’t have a Valentine, don’t fret — make a wireless love connection.

Downs: Because it’s so popular, it can get a little too cozy when sugar-craving customers pack the cafe. Continue reading

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Housing near stadium will help Southeast’s tarnished image

(originally posted on November 2, 2006 by The American Observer.)

Observer photo Leander Schaerlaeckens

Observer photo Leander Schaerlaeckens

The new Nationals baseball stadium will bring more than peanuts and Cracker Jacks to the district’s Southeast Waterfront area. Mayoral candidate Adrian Fenty was on hand for Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a $170 million residential project in Southeast, D.C.

The project marks the beginning of development in the city’s new “baseball district.”

Fenty said Onyx on First would change the way district residents and visitors view southeast.

“This is going to be an unbelievable neighborhood,” he said. “It can bring the type of reinvestment this area longs for.”

The building site is on First Street Southeast, one block away from the new stadium. The project is a joint venture between Faison, a real estate investment and development company, and the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund. Citibank Community Development is funding the construction. Continue reading

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Searching for recognition: Undocumented workers seek legal rights to work

(originally posted on September 28, 2006 by The American Observer)

Outside a convenience store, a 38-year-old man waited to get paid for the construction job he did earlier that day. Wearing a baseball cap and a dirty navy blue T-shirt, he watched the contractor carefully give money to the other workers.

“I came from Guatemala eight years ago to help my family back home,” he said as his eyes wandered from the contractor to the floor.

“They say we’re terrorists, but we’re not,” he said. “All I want is to get my papers, so I can work legally. We help this country by working. We just want an opportunity.”

Every year, millions of illegal immigrants come to the United States for the opportunity to not only walk down streets paved with gold but to help pave those streets. Continue reading

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