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Chelsi Hall, Howard University News Service
The Peter Bugs Shoe Repair Academy in Southeast D.C. is full of history, life, and opportunity for anyone who comes in.
A native to D.C., John “Peter Bugs” Matthews is like the modern-day sShoemaker who continuously gives back to his community.
Matthews did not have it easy early in life. He struggled in school and developed a stutter. He said he was mistreated by teachers and brushed aside.
“I could have been the president but I’d be the first person on the short bus., I had a stutter and they took us and put people like us in the basement,” he said.
Matthews said he felt like this for most of his grade school experience until high school when he said he thought he caught a break. Bugs was placed in regular classes only to be told by his counselor that he had to attend a trade school.
“Not even 17 years old and I’m being discriminated against because of their mentality,” he lamented.
He may not have wanted to attend a trade school, but he went on to attend Phelps Vocational High school where he ended up in the shoe repair shop. He studied under Guy Panofino, a retired cColonel and an Italian shoemaker.
Immediately they connected, and Matthews said he didn’t feel so alone because Panofino also had a stutter. In the 12th grade, Panofino helped him get a two-year scholarship for shoe repair and boot making at the University of Oklahoma.
He later attended Federal City College, which is now known as the University of the District of Columbia. Graduating with a degree in sociology and anthropology, Matthews says that life after college was difficult at first because he couldn’t find a good paying job.
Matthews found a few jobs but said he knew he never wanted to work under anyone again. In May of 1977, he opened the Peter Bugs Shoe Repair Academy where he taught young men in the neighborhood how to make and repair shoes and work with leather.
Matthews stated, “this was also a rebirth for me, that’s where the name Peter Bugs came from.”
Mike Banner, a former student, expressed his love for the program and how it pushed him in all aspects of life to become the absolute best version of himself. He said that working under Matthews, “deals with your soul and your potential.”
Matthews made such an impact in his community that a block on 13th Street Southeast was renamed as “Peterbug Matthews Way” in recognition of his work.
“He’s very education oriented and always looking to help the youth in any way that he can. It’s the way we were raised, he had adults that helped him and he’s carrying it on,” said Sandra Owens, an old friend of Matthews.
His alumni group Shoe Shop Boyz, now Men of Matthews Way, helped him throw the Peter Bugs Day Festival to raise money for children. Some students still come back to visit him and keep in contact.
“If you look a wheel, there are several spokes in the wheel and the hub (center). Peter Bugs has been the hub in the wheel of the community for 41 years…The humble beginnings, the spokes, all lead back to the hub,” Banner said.
Amber Tucker, Howard University News Service
Deborah Shore, CEO, and founder of the Sasha Bruce Youth Work (SBY) dedicated her life to giving back to her community. Born and raised in Washington D.C., Shore explains how she’s “always felt a need to change the dynamic of the District.”
“My journey began over 44 years ago in an effort to help a friend heal from losing her oldest child. Now I live every day helping our next generation,” Shore said.
Jonathan Moore, a staff member at the Sasha Bruce House, said, “I’ve worked with Deborah for 13 years, and she gives her all every day. These kids mean the world to her and her spirit is full of love. God made this work just for her.”
The violent death of Alexandra Bruce, the daughter of esteemed socialite hostess Evangeline Bruce, sparked Shore’s passion for giving back. Alexandra, known as Sasha, was fatally shot in 1975 at the family estate. Police suspected Sasha’s husband of her killing, but he but fled the country and was not extradited to face charges.
Devastated, Evangeline Bruce enlisted the help of several friends to create the Sasha Bruce Youth Work organization. Among these friends was Shore, an individual that played a crucial role in getting the organization off the ground.
Shore stated, “In the beginning days we were just an outreach program. We would walk the streets of D.C. leaving no stone unturned finding children and teenagers in need of somewhere safe to stay for the night.”
While we used a church to house some of the children, I would go out and network to get more financial support for the non-profit. It wasn’t until a dear friend of mine, Evangeline Bruce, reached out to me in efforts to help us establish a real building, a dedicated space to help these children thrive,” Shore continued.
In 1977, Shore opened the Sasha Bruce Youth Work House. The organization was initially an outreach program. It later evolved into a youth shelter when Evangeline Bruce donated a building for the charity.
The District of Columbia saw an increase of 40.5% in homelessness– within the last decade alone, according to 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report done by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 2007-2017, D.C. saw a 142.7% increase of homeless people in families with children and teenagers, according to Shelters to Shutters.
Jasmine, a young woman in the program who declined to give her last name, said, “I was living at home with my parents, and I had been sexually abused by my step-father. The Sasha Bruce house saved me.” They took me in, and it was the warmth of being here. Deborah “truly is a mother figure.”
Jessica Bisqut, a former member of the clinic, said, “I was one of the first people ever in her clinic, and now I work for her."
"When I was 16, I remember thinking how someone could love someone like me. [Shore] cleaned me up put me in therapy for drug abuse and sexual assault and even helped me graduate,” Bisqut continued.
“They took me in, and it was the warmth of being here. Deborah truly is a mother figure,” Jasmine, the young woman living at the Sasha Bruce house, said.
“These kids need someone to be there when they feel they have nowhere else to turn. And I love being that person for them. I look to inspire these kids and ignite a community that helps one another. And I wouldn’t change a single thing,” Shore said.
Zadriuna Bridges, Howard University News Service
WASHINGTON – Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Captain Donnell Troy has served as a firefighter for 29 years. Being a first responder isn’t new to Captain Troy; his father served as a first responder for nearly 30 years.
Zadriuna Bridges, Amber Tucker, and Chelsi Hall, Howard University News Service
Located in Ward 5 on 371 Morse Street N.E., the monthly 5D ANC meeting took place on June 13 at 7:00 pm.
The meeting followed the given itinerary until Commissioner Kathy Henderson got into a heated exchange with a resident of Ward 5 saying, “I vote to not give out any money because plenty of times money was stolen out of the account.”
“She says she won’t let people steal money, yet she was the main one doing it to buy her daughter and herself a new laptop and cell phone,” said resident Sydelle Moore.
Henderson was asked about these allegations and claimed they were false. “People lie, it’s in their nature,” Henderson said.
The meeting continued for nearly three hours. Some community members were hesitant to express their concerns, however, Juanita Diggs was not.
After D.C. Police Captain Duncan Bedlion finished giving updates on the neighborhood, Diggs immediately responded. Diggs is a resident of the area who has consistently complained about trespassing in her neighborhood without any help from local police. “They held a block party from 4:30 pm to 4:30 am with loud music and hundreds of people. There were so many people in the street cars could not get by, and I called twice, and nobody came,” she said.
Diggs expressed her concerns about the lack of policing because of a disabled neighbor who frequently requires medical assistance. She then expressed, “I dare you to do what you say you’re going to do because my concerns are never addressed properly,” directly to Captain Bedlion.
Commissioner Bernice Blacknell was also concerned by the number of times Metro Police Department had allegedly ignored them because she had also experienced trespassing in her neighborhood.
Although many of the residents were taken aback by the meeting's heated exchanges, many were glad to end the session off with brighter news.
The District of Columbia Delta Housing Development Organization presented to the commissioners and residents of Ward 5, a new location of the Delta Towers, the senior community housing. The Delta Towers currently house 150 senior citizens and provides affordable housing in Northeast Washington.
The President, Antoinette White-Richardson stated that it was vital for them to present this to the residents of Ward 5 because “we are concerned about this community and we want to continue to provide affordable long-term housing to residents of the District of Columbia.”
The new location will be located at 1400 Florida Ave NE. It will house 170 residents with additional recreational rooms. Construction is set to begin in August.
Jasmine Hardy, Howard University News Service
Experts Say Finger Unfairly Pointed at Mentally Ill
WASHINGTON –When the mother of a mentally ill man called 911 for help from her home in Dallas a few years ago, she did not expect him to be shot to death by police right in front of her. When she called in, she specifically requested officers with mental health training and told them her son, Jason Harrison, 39, was suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
He needed to go to the hospital, she said. Her son’s erratic behavior was nothing new. She had called for help before. So, when she opened her door, she casually informed them of her son’s current state.
“He’s just off the chain, she told the officers as her son ambled out the door just behind her. “Incoherent, talking about chopping up people.”
Harrison seemed calm. He was twiddling with a screwdriver. Immediately, the officers began shouting at Harrison to drop the screwdriver. He didn’t. Five seconds later, he was dead after being shot five times. He lay dying in the driveway of the well-kept, middle-class home as officers continued to yell at him to drop the screw driver.
What happened to Harrison in 2014, even according to police, happens far too often when the mentally ill encounter police. Additionally, it is a startling example of the relationship of mentally ill when it comes to guns and shooting.
Despite statements by President Donald Trump and others regarding mentally ill Americans and guns, they are most likely the victims instead of the shooters, statistics show.
According to a study by the Treatment Advocacy Center, for example, at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year have mental health problems.
Research suggests that the rhetoric around mass shootings can supports an invalid stereotype that people with mental illness are responsible. The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were murdered, is an example.
While students and others focused on gun reform, President Trump’s initial reactions to the shooting were a commentary on the shooter’s mental health and the failure of school officials, friends, family and others who knew him to report him.
In a tweet sent out the day after the shooting, Trump said, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
Ironically, while Trump has recommended an improved mental healthcare system as a solution to this nation’s gun problem, he signed a bill last year that makes it easier for mentally ill people to purchase guns. Additionally, his latest budget proposal would cut public funds for mental health treatment as well as cut funds for an educational department program that is supposed to support safer schools.
The constant focus on a shooter’s mental stability in mass shooting creates a false image of mentally ill people, experts say. According to the American Mental Health Counselor’s Association, less than 5 percent of all violence in America is attributable to the mentally ill.
Instead, mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than to commit violence, researchers found. A study in 2014 by researchers at North Carolina State University, RTI International, the University of California, Davis, Simon Fraser University and Duke University found through their study group of mentally ill individuals, only 2.6 percent of the violent acts they committed were in school or workplace settings.
Instead, the researchers reported, 31 percent of the mentally ill individuals had been victims of violence in the same time period.
Dr. Tanya Alim, a psychiatrist at Howard University Hospital and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said while some point to the mentally ill regarding gun violence, the nation is not providing the care the mentally ill need.
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of adults with mental illness in the U.S do not receive mental healthcare treatment.
“We need better access to care,” Alim said. “We need to decrease the stigmatization related to mental health treatment, and we need prevention, meaning helping children at an early age and identifying illnesses early on before things get out of hand.”
Dr. Harold Koplwicz, the founding president of the Child Mind Institute and one of the nation’s leading child and adolescent psychiatrists, said early care may have an impact on gun violence. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 75 percent of all psychiatric illness occurs before the age of 24 and 50 percent before the age of 14.
“If we change the system so that people are better able to recognize it, you can treat something a lot more effectively if it’s only a year old or two years old, than someone who gets psychiatric illness after 25 or 30 years like any of us,” Koplwicz told CBS News.
Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University has done extensive research on guns and mental illness and argues the two subjects should be separate parts of the public debate. He was the lead author in a study that says Americans with severe anger issues are more likely to be the cause of shootings, not mentally ill people.
“Gun violence and serious mental illness are two very important, but distinct public health issues that intersect only at their edges,” he said in a discussion of his study.
Brian Hepburn, program director at the National Association of State Mental Health, agrees and says better mental health care is desperately needed, but it would have little effect on gun violence.
“Gun violence statistics in general would not be impacted, because in general, there is not a relationship between gun violence and mental illness,” Hepburn said.
Still, there is a link between mental illness and crime, if only because when the mentally ill do not proper treatment and medication, they commit acts that are deemed criminal and they are arrested and locked away.
The National Alliance on Mental Health estimates that between 25 percent and 40 percent of mentally ill Americans will be jailed or incarcerated at some point in their lives. The most glaring example is Cook County Jail in Chicago.
Cook County is the largest single jail in the U.S, housing about 6,500 prisoners. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, an estimated one in three of its inmates has a form of mental illness. Consequently, every morning, correctional officers hand out thousands of doses of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication and other anti-psychotics.
Those who have untreated mental illness and are not incarcerated run the risk of being shot and killed during any interaction with police. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be shot by police than other civilians. By comparison, African Americans are three times more likely to be shot by police.
Family members of these victims call for better training of police officers to de-escalate potentially violent situations with mentally ill people. In addition, experts say the traditional tactics officers use in these situations are the opposite of what they should be doing.
For example, instead of yelling and encroaching on a mentally ill person’s space, they should speak calmly and give them space.
One of the keys, law enforcement officials say, is Crisis Intervention Training, which trains officers in how to deal with the mentally ill and others during intense interactions. Only about 3,000 of the nation’s 18,000 police departments, however, have their officers go through Crisis Intervention Training, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Marlana Edwards, Howard University News Service
Washington’s youngest mayoral candidate, Michael Christian Woods, has plans to implement a series of programs within DC Public Schools (DCPS) that will help K-12 students to develop life skills, social skills and a familiarity with entrepreneurship.
"These programs are designed to help students to feel comfortable at school, and to prepare students for the world after graduation," he said.
Woods, 19, who is a political science and Africana studies double major at George Washington University, believes that an effort must be made to ensure that DCPS students become more engaged in school.
“I want to introduce life skills courses,” said Woods, “these would be adaptive and restorative programs that would be a part of the curriculum.”
Woods wants students to take courses that will prepare them for the real world by teaching them how to create resumes and cover letters. The courses will also teach job interview skills and college preparedness skills. Woods believes that students should have lessons on how to navigate the Common Application program before applying to college.
Woods also addressed the increase in truancy rates amongst DCPS students between 2016 and 2017. DCPS truancy rates increased from 26 percent in 2016 to 31 percent in 2017. In response, Mayor Muriel Bowser initiated a city wide effort to increase school attendance by bringing together the entire community to support students and families through a public awareness campaign, and a taskforce coordinating public agencies and stakeholders, and investments in data-driven strategies to increase attendance.
Woods believes that low attendance rates in Washington D.C public schools can be attributed to a lack of student interest in school courses.
“I don’t think that the problem is attendance,” said Woods, “The current administration is saying that every day counts, I think it’s more of an issue of student engagement because students can attend class but really not pay attention. What we need to do is figure out how we can make students want to go to school.”
Woods also addressed gun violence in schools. He wants to incorporate “circle sessions” into elementary school curriculums in order to foster positive relationships between students and their peers, and students and their teachers. Woods believes that circle sessions, where students and teachers sit in a circle, will help teachers and therapists to recognize students with antisocial and dangerous behaviors at a young age.
Woods believes that school shootings like the one that occured in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, can be prevented with circle sessions.
“What I want to do is implement circle sessions starting in preschool and kindergarten,” Woods said, “these are focused on socializing kids and developing kids so that they can feel like school is a safe environment. Circle sessions will foster better relationships between students and peers and students and teachers, and it could also help us figure out which students might need therapy or other emotional assistance.”
As mayor, Woods plans to introduce DCPS students to entrepreneurship through a series of Shark Tank competitions. Woods plans to teach middle school students about marketing and entrepreneurship through a citywide Shark Tank-like competition that will incorporate local business owners. After judging a citywide entrepreneurship competition, local business owners will have a chance to invest in products created by DCPS middle school students. Woods believes that underserved youth should be exposed to more opportunities to develop business acumen and entrepreneurship skills.
“The competition will definitely help to maintain student engagement,” Woods said.
Woods will also address the lack of grocery stores in Wards 7 and 8. Woods believes that access to healthy food will help DCPS students to perform better.
Residents living within Wards 7 and 8, which also have the city’s highest obesity rates and are home to the largest food deserts within D.C., have access to only seven full-service grocery stores. Woods plans to build grocery stores in Wards 7 and 8. Of the city’s 43 full-service grocery stores, only four are located in Ward 7, and three in Ward 8. By contrast, Ward 3 – the highest income Ward– has 11 full-service grocery stores.
Woods believes that the next mayor- whoever it may be- should focus on addressing the issues in Washington D.C.’s most impoverished communities.
“Washington D.C. is only as strong as its weakest ward.” Woods said.
Tayler Adigun, Kenae Damon, Sydney Davenport, Acacia James, Ian Mahon, Chanique Rochester, DaShea Smith, Niaja Smith
This Spring 2018 newscast is produced by students in the senior capstone multimedia journalism class at Howard University's Cathy Hughes School of Communications. NewsVision prepares students for careers in front of, and behind the camera. All content, including promos, was produced by the students in Prof. Jennifer Thomas' section. They also assumed all technical and editorial roles. We hope you enjoy! Follow us on Twitter: @NewsVisionHU , and Instagram: HUNewsVision.