Grammy-winner Kierra Sheard’s new album atop iTunes Gospel/Christian charts with release of Graceland, out today!

Los Angeles, CA – Kierra Sheard releases her highly anticipated album, GRACELAND, today, July 22. The newest judge on BET’s 7th season of “Sunday Best” gets personal on GRACELAND and shares her ongoing inner battle between self-conviction and condemnation. Gail Mitchell from Billboard states, “Sheard’s triumph over turmoil ultimately triggered what is arguably her best and most versatile work to date. GRACELAND brims with self-introspection and lessons learned as a fearless Sheard bares her soul and shares a revelatory, yet joyous journey that everyone can personally embrace.” Kierra collaborated for the first time with celebrated pop songwriter Diane Warren (Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Céline Dion) and rising songwriter/producer Harmony Samuels (Ariana Grande, Fantasia, Michelle Williams).

The exuberant first single, “2nd Win,” marches its cadence fittingly underscoring the song’s message about overcoming life’s challenges. Kierra samples the Clark Sisters’ song, “They Were Overcome,” paying homage to the trailblazing work of the group’s members: Sheard’s aunts and her mother, Karen Clark Sheard. GRACELAND’s other quintessential tracks range from the guitar-driven, folky mid-tempo title track (“I Fall All the Time,” says Sheard. “That song touches me because it’s what I feel every day”) to the rap-accented anthem “Moving Forward.”

In addition to promoting Graceland, Kierra recently launched a signature hosiery line distributed by Walgreens and is recently finished filming the second season of her family’s BET weekly docu-drama, “The Sheards,” airing this Fall. Kierra’s philanthropic campaigns include her youth organization: BRL (Bold! Right! Life!). The Non-profit is fifteen chapters strong and is staging its 9th annual conference (Aug. 7-9) in her hometown Detroit. Sheard recently launched a PSA campaign with Saving our Daughters to support young girls battling homelessness and date abuse.
Twitter: @KierraSheard
Facebook: KierraSheard
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DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Remarks to the NAACP

Opening Remarks of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
As Prepared for Delivery
105th NAACP Annual Convention- “Civil Rights, Race, and National Policy” Panel
July 21, 2014
Las Vegas, Nevada

Thank you Hilary for that wonderful introduction and for your steadfast advocacy on behalf of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

The NAACP is fortunate to have you as their voice of truth to policy makers and the Administration.

To Chairman Brock, your exemplary stewardship has ensured that the NAACP doesn’t just survive, but thrives as the leading civil rights and social justice organization in the 21st century; and to President Brooks – congratulations! I know you will lead this organization through the next era of civic engagement and activism that our country still so desperately needs.

I look forward to working with you as you take up the mantel to lead the next chapter in the NAACP’s history.

And I can’t think of a better person for you to have received the gavel from than my good friend Lorraine Miller.

Lorraine is not just a friend and fellow DNC Member, she wears many hats. She’s been a trusted adviser to me and many others throughout the years.

She brought her same work ethic, dignity and grace to the role of Interim President of the NAACP as she did to the role of Clerk of the U. S. House of Representatives, and she is one of the most selfless public servants I know.

Thank you Lorraine for your leadership and service.

And finally, while I’m delighted to be here in Las Vegas with all of you and NAACP Las Vegas Branch President Frank Hawkins, and Tri State Conference President of Idaho, Nevada and Utah Jeanetta Williams, you are both wonderful hosts – there’s no place like home, so I would like to recognize the President of my home state conference – Florida and Miami-Dade Branch NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze, National Vice Chair Leon Russell and all the leadership and members from the great state of Florida.

As a card carrying member of the NAACP West Hollywood chapter, I was proud to join all of you last summer in Orlando as we Stood Our Ground and reaffirmed our collective commitment to justice and equality.

So, I’m pleased that this year’s conference theme is All in For Justice and Equality.

That’s a helpful frame to look at the contrasts between the Democratic and Republican parties, particularly with the upcoming November election.

I think the question every NAACP Member, every voter and every American must pose to its leaders is “Are you ALL IN?”

The Republican Party has chosen to promote and work for the privileged few while Democrats work to expand opportunity, justice and equality for ALL.

This couldn’t be more telling than on the economic front where Democrats have time and again offered policies to help everyone reach that next rung of the economic ladder, while Republicans have dug in their heels and just – said– NO.

As you all know, this year, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

During Freedom Summer, hundreds of young volunteers descended on Mississippi with the goal of registering African-Americans to vote.

Participants faced opposition and violence, including the murder of three activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi. But they persisted because they knew that none of our civil rights is more fundamental to American democracy than the right to vote – they were ALL IN!

Half a century later, we are still fighting to ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their right to vote.

A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Since then, the haste at which states have moved to enact voting restrictions is confirmation that the protections put in place by Section 4 are still necessary. It will require Congressional action to restore these protections. So ask yourself, is your Senator and Member of Congress ‘all in’?

If not, and they’re up for reelection, it’s time for them to be ALL OUT!

Recently, Republicans have made a concerted effort to suppress the vote. This decision is based on a narrow, short-term political calculation that Republicans can win elections by shrinking the size of the electorate.

In the meantime, Democrats are committed to ensuring that every eligible voter can register to vote, every registered voter can vote, and every vote cast is counted.

So, let’s be clear NAACP, as a Member of Congress, as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, as a parent raising the next generation, as a voter and as an American, I AM ALL IN for JUSTICE and EQUALITY!

To his credit, I know that Michael Steele has criticized Republicans’ voter suppression efforts like voter ID laws, but we need more Republicans who say something and stand up against their party.

Voter ID has been put forward as a solution to the virtually non-existent problem of voter impersonation. It disproportionately hurts women, young people, seniors and the African American community.

Even Rand Paul acknowledged to the New York Times that their voter ID push was offending people, but then went on Fox News and admitted that he was still in favor of voter ID laws. That’s certainly not a sign that he’s ALL IN!

Eliminating same day registration or cutting early voting days and hours and eliminating early voting on the Sunday before Election Day when African American churches have had historical success with their “Souls to the Polls” programs. These are all voter suppression tactics to keep some of us from voting.

Just like the leaders of the Freedom Summer, who fifty years ago knew how important it was to register as many new voters as possible. At the DNC, we’re using our technology and data advantage of today to help campaigns and allies deploy their limited resources more efficiently to maximize voter registration efforts.

One new component is a data set that will help identify where we need to commit our resources in order to change electoral outcomes.

In other words, to turn red seats blue through registration and turnout of eligible voters who aren’t registered but should be.

For example, in one of my two home counties, Miami-Dade County, 90,000 eligible African Americans aren’t registered to vote. That’s why President Nweze is conducting a Freedom Summer down in South Florida to get them registered. And the DNC is ready to help!

We will estimate how many potential new Democrats need to register, how many net votes would be produced by registering new voters, and how difficult it will be to find potential voters in an area.

In practice, this data will help us know where to direct canvassing and voter registration drives to target the highest density of unregistered voters, and how many of our resources to commit in order to influence an electoral result.

The DNC is committed to the policies and issues that are important to the African American community.

Not only are we all in for justice and equality at the DNC, diversity and inclusion are fundamental values for our party and they shape everything from our platform to our tactics.

In 2012, I worked closely with the Democratic Convention Committee, CBC, CHC, CAPAC and other stakeholders to improve our diverse hiring practices.

As a result, for the very first time, we set a goal and exceeded it, that one-third of all convention expenditures went to firms owned by people of color.
Half of all convention expenditures were awarded to firms owned by people from diverse backgrounds, including people of color, women, veterans and the LGBT community.

There are 66 total executive committee members of the DNC, comprised of our national officers, representatives from allied groups/other Dem committees, caucus chairs, sub-committee chairs, and regional representatives.

54% of the Executive Committee are women.
43% of the Executive Committee are people of color.
24% of the Executive Committee are African American.
15% of the Executive Committee are Latino.

We also have the most diverse senior staff of any committee between the two Parties. The heads of the Chair’s office, Communications, Political, Voter Expansion, Party Affairs, Community Engagement and Secretary’s Office departments are all African American or Latino.

We know that it is not enough to just hire a few extra people of color and call that commitment. It is our policies that speak the loudest about our commitment. From the highest reaches of our decision making, the President of the United States, our Executive Committee members, our most senior staff, and with whom the DNC does business. Our commitment to diversity speaks volumes.

We believe the most effective way to ensure that we can advance this agenda is to make our voices heard at the ballot box in November and expand those voices into a chorus that will make a difference in who is representing us in Washington and our state capitals.

Thank you.

Congresswoman Corrine Brown Comments on Violence in Middle East

(Washington, DC) Congresswoman Corrine Brown made the following statement regarding the situation in the Middle East:
“The escalating violence on Israel’s border with Gaza is deeply alarming. “I unequivocally condemn intentional attacks on Israeli civilians by Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists and support Israel’s right to defend its people in the face of such attacks. I also strongly believe that Israel needs to augment its efforts to avoid bringing more pain and suffering to Palestinian civilians, including women and children in the Gaza Strip, and to recognize the danger of yet another prolonged escalation of violence.

“The situation on Israel’s southern border cannot be allowed to spiral out of control, and I wholeheartedly believe that both sides should agree to an immediate halt in hostilities, followed by a ceasefire, which could open the door for a future political process, the only way to prevent future military conflict.

“While I strongly condemn Hamas’ terrorism and hold it responsible for violence emanating from the Gaza Strip that is under its control; I also believe that Israeli officials should be aware that Hamas cannot defeated militarily. Furthermore, a power vacuum in the Gaza Strip is likely to result in utter chaos, which is definitely not in the best interest of Israel, the United States, Egypt, or the Palestinian people.

“Long term security and stability will only come to fruition if both sides take seats at the negotiating table in an attempt to reach a peaceful solution.”

NAACP Statement on Death of NYC Man after Police Chokehold

(LAS VEGAS, NEVADA) — In response to the death of Mr. Eric Garner who was put in a chokehold by a NYPD officer, the NAACP released the following statement.
Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:
“The death of Mr. Eric Garner is a deeply troubling tragedy. The use of an apparently illegal chokehold by police officers on a citizen demands a thorough investigation by every appropriate body as quickly as possible. Anything less, or anything later, is unacceptable. The NAACP will not rest until justice is served for Mr. Garner, his family, and the citizens of New York.”
Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference:
“Our hearts go out to the family of Eric Garner, who senselessly lost their loved one at the hands of an officer, whose job was to serve and protect,” said Hazel N. Dukes, President of the New York State Conference of the NAACP. “Communities of color are sick and tired of this familiar story. Mr. Garner is one of too many New Yorkers who have unjustly had their lives cut short by police officers over the past decades. The NAACP is committed to working with Mayor De Blasio and Commissioner Bratton to ensure that justice is served and mechanisms are put in place to prevent these types of tragedies from happening again in our city.”
Dr. Niaz Kasravi, NAACP Criminal Justice Director:
“In recent months, we have witnessed a troublesome reliance on ‘broken windows’ style policing, where officers target low level offenders under the misguided assumption that this tactic will ultimately create safer communities and reduce violent crimes,” said Dr. Niaz Kasravi, the NAACP Criminal Justice Director. “
This tragedy is a grim reminder that aggressive over-policing of apparent low level offenses does not work and will ultimately lead to unnecessary and tragic outcomes. The only proven method to reduce violence is for officer to focus on violent crime incidents, use reliable policing tactics, and work with members of the community to create greater safety for all.”

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Orange County Citizens Honored at 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference

Sharon Warner received the Mayor’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year award at the 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference. Warner is the founder of Family & Friends United, Inc.

Several Orange County citizens were honored at the 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference for their invaluable contributions in their neighborhoods and communities.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and each of the six members of the Board of County Commissioners recognized an individual in their district for their efforts in helping their neighborhoods flourish.

Sharon Warner received the Mayor’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year award. Warner is the founder of Family & Friends United, Inc., a program that started locally more than 20 years ago. The program gives children the tools they need to better deal with challenging situations they may encounter at school and outside the home. Over the years, hundreds of children have participated in Warner’s program and many have graduated from college or entered the military after their time with Family & Friends United.

“Sharon has truly made Orange County her home for life and it is fitting that we honored her at a conference that values and promotes community,” Mayor Jacobs said. “From growing up right here in Orange County’s City of Apopka with her three siblings, to raising both of her children and dedicating countless hours to community service, she has embraced what it is to be a good neighbor and we are grateful for all that she has done to keep our community strong.”

Orange County’s Board of County Commissioners also recognized citizens in their own districts:

District 1 - Betsy VanderLey is the vice-chair of Orange County Planning and Zoning Commission and serves on numerous volunteer boards throughout the community including Orange County’s Affordable Housing Board. She is a business developer, entrepreneur and a successful small business owner.

District 2 - Regina Melvin is the founder of Lockhart Acres Farm, a non-profit community farm that grows fresh food. She has also played a vital role in the Green School Initiative at Lockhart Middle School. In addition to donating a greenhouse and a rabbit, she is also designing and installing a pollinator garden. In 2013, she worked with the residents of Lockhart and Orange County’s Neighborhood Preservation & Revitalization Division to form the People of Lockhart Community Association (POLCA) and became its first president. As president of POLCA, she organized Lockhart’s First National Night Out Event in 2013.

District 3 - The Azalea Park Little League is a youth sports organization founded in 1964 by five parents who revitalized the community and the local ball field. Recently, the mural of baseball legend Roberto Clemente was painted over by vandals. The Azalea Park Little League, along with community residents and leaders such as Orlando City Commissioner Tony Ortiz, were able to join efforts and ensure that the mural was re-painted and community spirits were restored.

District 4 - Pastor Abner Adorno has worked closely with the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida and the Women and Children’s Shelter by cooking meals, providing personal hygiene supplies and being a life coach. He has also served as the community’s Hispanic liaison for Orange County Public Schools and assisted in establishing an elementary school in the Dominican Republic. For the past two years, along with members of his congregation, he has served District 4 through extensive volunteer work at the District’s Back to School event, the Three Kings Day celebration and community clean ups. He has assisted in distributing over 3,000 gifts for children and other volunteer organizations.

District 5 - Timothy J. McKinney leads a grassroots initiative called the Bithlo Transformation Effort, which is recognized as a model in community health improvement. He has also received various community recognitions including being named one of the 50 Most Powerful People in Orlando Magazine, The Hometown Hero Award by Bank of America and has received a Hearts of Gold award by Orlando Magazine in 2011.

District 6 - As the founder and Pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church, Pastor Michael Kimbrough continues to provide opportunities for local youth to reach their dreams and goals. He founded the Shine Performing & Creative Art Training Center in 2005 and later founded the Pine Hills Community Performing Arts Center in 2010. He also organized the first Pine Hills Cultural Arts Festival in 2014 and plans to continue coordinating this as an annual event. He has also assisted with coordination of the Stop the Killing Start Living Peace campaign. He volunteers with the Orange County School Board and received the Orange County Parent Teacher Association Volunteer of the Year Award. He is active in both the Pine Hills Council and Pine Hills Safe Neighborhood Partnership.

Additional 2014 Orange County Community Award Winners include:

  • Excellence in Community Building Projects – Forrest Flaniken Bike Festival, Avalon Park Neighborhood Watch
  • Excellence in Innovative Newsletter Production – Spring Isle Community Association, Kelly Willson – Editor
  • Excellence in Leadership – Michelle Wright, Azalea Park Safe Neighborhood Association
  • Excellence in Neighborly Service – Grace Booth, Spring Isle Community Association
  • Clean and Attractive Neighborhood – Rose Boulevard Neighborhood Organization, Manuela Davies – President

The 2014 Florida Neighborhoods Conference, hosted by the Orange County Neighborhood Preservation & Revitalization Division at Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, featured over more than 25 workshops and more than 350 neighborhood and community leaders attended the event. The Conference was held July 10-12, 2014.

“This conference is a great resource and tool for community leaders to help improve their communities,” said Lavon Williams, Orange County Neighborhood Preservation & Revitalization Division Manager.

The annual conference strives to educate and assist citizens on how to revitalize their neighborhoods and make these communities the best places to live. Citizens, community leaders, grassroots campaign organizers and non-profit organizations joined together during the three-day event to share ideas and improvements in their communities.

To learn more about the event, watch News 13 Orlando’s news feature.

A collection of photos from the event are available for use by the media and are located on Flickr.