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First Black Female Brigade Commander to Lead Midshipmen

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Commandant of Midshipmen announced the spring semester midshipman leadership positions, Friday, Nov. 6, which includes the selection of the Naval Academy’s first African American female brigade commander, Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber, of Lake Forest, Ill.

The brigade commander is the highest leadership position within the brigade, and is the only “six striper”– a reference to the collar insignia worn on the midshipman uniform, the rank  of midshipman captain. The semester-long position is currently held by Midshipman 1st Class Ryan Chapman and is selected through an application and interview process by senior leadership from the Commandant’s staff. 

The first female brigade commander was then Midshipman 1st Class Juliane Gallina from the class of 1992, who served in the position during the fall of 1991. Barber will be the sixteenth woman selected for brigade commander in the 44 years women have been attending the  Naval Academy. 

Barber, a graduate of Lake Forest High School in Illinois, is a mechanical engineering major and aspires to commission as a Marine Corps ground officer. As a walk-on sprinter and hurdler of the Navy Women’s Varsity Track and Field team, she has lettered all three years of competing and is a USNA record holder for the outdoor 4x400m relay. She is the co-president of the Navy Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club, secretary for the National Society of Black  Engineers, and a member of the USNA Gospel Choir and Midshipman Black Studies Club. Barber served as the 13th company’s executive officer this past Plebe Summer and currently serves as the brigade’s 1st regiment executive officer. 

“Earning the title of brigade commander speaks volumes, but the title itself is not nearly as significant as the opportunity it brings to lead a team in doing something I believe will be truly  special,” said Barber. “I am humbled to play a small role in this momentous season of American history.” 

The brigade striper selection board receives records of the top ranked first class (senior) midshipmen across the brigade for consideration for the most senior midshipman leadership positions each semester. The board’s composition is made up of the deputy commandant of midshipmen, the six battalion officers, the brigade master chief and the current brigade commander. 

Records are reviewed in detail and 30 midshipmen are selected for board interviews. Each member of the board utilizes an objective assessment tool to assess each midshipman and then rank them in order. Individual board member scores are combined and a resultant  consolidated ranking is generated; Barber was the top-ranked midshipman out of this semester’s  board process. 

“She is a catalyst for action, a visionary, a listener, a doer, and a person driven by compassion, by faith, by a fierce sense of passion and heart full of love,” said Chapman. “Sydney is the perfect person to lead the brigade.” 

Barber completed a 7-week internship with the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory two summers ago, where she was instrumental in doing  breakthrough research on bio-electrochemical uses for carbon nanotubes. Her research in developing legislative strategies to address education disparities in minority communities earned her selection as a 2020 Truman Scholar national finalist.  

“Sydney stands out amongst her peers, for not only her exemplary record, but for her clear vision of how she intends to make the world a better place and her accompanying bias for action. We were incredibly proud to have Sydney represent the Naval Academy in her Truman Scholarship interview this year,” said Lt. Cmdr. Darby Yeager, a member of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Truman Scholarship selection committee. 

Barber also initiated a STEM outreach program that leverages mentoring, literature, and service lessons to serve middle school-aged girls of color, and led a team to organize the  inaugural USNA Black Female Network Breakfast to bridge the generational gap between current black midshipmen and alumni. She most recently mobilized a team of more than 180 midshipmen, faculty, and alumni to develop the Midshipman Diversity Team to promote greater diversity, inclusivity, and equity within the Brigade. 

She was recently invited to speak at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Visitors, the academy’s congressional oversight committee. Barber discussed how she has negotiated her time as a midshipman in the COVID-19 environment, her activities as a midshipmen striper, leadership in Bancroft Hall, balancing activities over the summer and her experience at Leatherneck, the Marine Corps’ summer training in Quantico, Va. 

Barber was also featured in a Naval Academy Founder’s Day video recently produced by the Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation, and discussed how the legacy of midshipmen who came before her is one of her motivations. [Barber can be found in video at minute marks 2:50-3:24 and 4:39-4:56.] 

The announcement of next semester’s leadership team was made to the Brigade of Midshipmen during the noon meal “anchor announcement,” which is currently being held  virtually due to the COVD-19 environment. Other brigade-level striper position billets announced Friday include Midshipman 1st Class Ashley Boddiford, of Oviedo, Florida., as the  brigade executive officer; Midshipman 1st Class Tristan Anderson, of Ventura, California, as the  brigade operations officer; Midshipman 1st Class Evelyn Berecz, of Downingtown, Pennsylvania., as the brigade training officer; Midshipman 2nd Class Taylor Forrester, of York,  Pennsylvania., as the brigade sergeant major; and Midshipman 2nd Class Quin Ramos, of Lafayette, Colorado, as the brigade training sergeant. 

“We are the architects of our future, and every day we earn the right to carry the torch that was once lit by the heroes, pioneers, and giants who came before us,” said Barber. “I owe everything to every person who paved the way for me, so I now pour my heart and soul into blazing the trail for the generations to come.” 

Word of Friday’s announcement spread quickly this past weekend after a social media post by the first Black female to graduate from USNA, Janie Mines. Mines shared a photo of Barber and commented, “This brought me to tears. This young woman, Midshipman Sydney Barber, will be the first Black Female Brigade Commander at the U.S. Naval Academy. 40 years later. Thank you, Sydney! Love you!” Mines graduated from the academy in 1980 with the first class of women, who were inducted in 1976. 

For more information about the Naval Academy, please visit: www.usna.edu or our Facebook page. 

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SAAAACF Report Underscores Inequity in San Antonio

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Groundbreaking study offers in-depth look at the state of the local African American community

SAN ANTONIO — The local African American community continues to face a significant challenge in closing socioeconomic opportunity gaps as reflected by leading social indicators, according to a new study.

The groundbreaking new report, State of the African American Community in San Antonio and Bexar County, is a joint effort by the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn) and the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF). It paints a thorough picture of how much work remains to be done to level the playing field for the local Black community – though recent initiatives are striving to reverse the trend.

We’re all well aware of the fact that our beloved city does suffer from socioeconomic disparity and this extensive report reflects this reality when it comes to the African American community

Marjie French

“We’re all well aware of the fact that our beloved city does suffer from socioeconomic disparity and this extensive report reflects this reality when it comes to the African American community,” said Marjie French, CEO of the Area Foundation. “That’s why we’re supporting nonprofits that address these challenges in order to help create a community where everyone has a chance to succeed.”

Toward that goal, the new community-led study – research conducted by Community Information Now – serves as a clarion call for all of us to think more about how we can help our fellow neighbors in need, said Bobby Blount, Chairman of the SAAAACF Board of Directors.

“This report does more than validate what most of us know: African Americans face many challenges in our community,” Blount said. “It provides a foundation for everyone to understand, discuss and take action to improve the livelihood of San Antonians.”

The research was based on various societal focus areas, selected by a 20-member community advisory committee. Some key findings:

• Population: African Americans comprise seven percent of Bexar County; about 20 percent of African Americans are military veterans; in about half of Black households where grandparents live with their minor grandchildren, those grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

• Housing: African Americans have the lowest rate of home ownership (41 percent); more than one-third (37 percent) of Black mortgage applicants are denied; overrepresentation in public housing (20 percent of all HUD-subsidized households).

• Education: Majority of Black students attend Judson ISD, Northside ISD and Northeast ISD; among all districts and charters, there’s overrepresentation in disciplinary alternative programs and out-of-school suspensions as well as in special education programs; underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

• Finance: African Americans have a lower median income ($48,509) than the county average ($57,157); nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of work-eligible African Americans are in the workforce; they are more likely than the county workforce overall to be unemployed (seven percent).

• Business: Only one percent of San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area businesses with paid staff and five percent of solo-run businesses are Black-owned.

• Health: About one in six (17 percent) working-age African Americans does not have health insurance and are also more likely to have medical debt in collections.

• Criminal justice: African Americans are overrepresented in police arrests as well as in criminal court cases; Blacks – along with Latinos – are the least to be released in cite and release cases for some misdemeanor offenses.

• Social connection: Majority of African Americans (83 percent) have broadband access but still trail other racial/ethnic groups; San Antonio is home to more than 200 Black churches with an average membership of 120 parishioners (excluding megachurches); about six percent of African Americans moved here from another Texas county or out of state.
The advisory committee, led by Blount, consulted with nonprofit advocacy organization Texas Appleseed to develop various policy recommendations to address the inequities highlighted in the report. Among the recommendations:

• Implement alternative methods of traffic law enforcement, including standardizing collection of metrics based on race and ethnicity.

• Invest in public defense to ensure those unable to retain counsel receive equal representation within the criminal justice system.

• Expand eligibility requirements for early education programs in order to enable Black children to be more kindergarten-ready.

• Create more opportunities for Black students to access Advanced Placement courses and gifted and talented programs.

• Expand paid internships as well as outreach programs to increase African American young adult participation in the workforce.

• Make more resources available and lift barriers impeding access to credit in order to increase financial stability for low-income African American households.

• Expand lending and support services to Black small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Though the new report leaves no doubt as to the tremendous challenge ahead, SAAFdn and SAAAACF are not sitting idle. A renewed focus on equity and social justice have led to the creation of strong and effective initiatives meant to close the opportunity gaps identified in the study. Some examples:

• Creation of the SAAAACF Social Justice Fund providing bail and legal aid to those facing low-level offenses.

• SAAFdn teaming up with UP Partnership on implementing Blue Meridian national funding leading to Youth Leadership Development and Workforce Development grants to nonprofits primarily focused on helping communities of color.

• SAAFdn supporting the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity coalition formed by top San Antonio business executives contributing more than $13 million into programs on equitable education, economic opportunities and social justice.

• SAAFdn partnership with the City of San Antonio/Metro Health providing grants to address health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.

• SAAFdn launching its first-ever San Antonio Equity Fellowship Program, a unique professional development program to champion and help grow nonprofit leaders of color.

• SAAFdn partnering with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) on the Leading To Change: Building Equity In Community Program focusing on equitable outcomes on affordable housing.

The report concludes with first-person “community voices” essays featuring local African American experts weighing in on the social indicators examined – each voice poignantly bringing to life the somber significance of the statistics. They are: Dr. Gary Bates, Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Ken Lowe, Dr. Travis Batts, Douglas Greene, Darryl E. Harris, Dr. Kenneth R. Kemp and Deborah Omowale Johnson.

Omowale Johnson, CEO and Director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, issued a critical reminder that the local Black community’s relatively small size doesn’t make it any less part of the diverse fabric of our great city.

“The Black community making up 7% of Bexar County may seem at first to be an insignificant group of people,” Omowale Johnson wrote. “However, if the community does not collectively recognize the impact of these statistics, the economic segregation gap will widen.”


About the San Antonio Area Foundation:
The San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn) has served as the city’s community-giving headquarters for nearly 60 years, growing to become one of the top 20 community foundations in the nation. The Area Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals supporting our community’s greatest needs, managing more than 500 charitable funds nearly $1 billion in assets. Beyond serving hundreds of nonprofit organizations every year through training and grantmaking, where total impact exceeded $71 million in 2020, the Area Foundation operates a strong student scholarship program. Over $37 million has been invested in our future leaders since 1969 through more than 100 scholarship funds. Learn more at saafdn.org.

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Community

MLK Day of Service

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Alpha Tau Omega Chapter, San Antonio’s local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated celebrated the Sorority’s 114th Founding Anniversary with a day on and not a day off. For this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. service project they hosted a Community-wide Food and Winter Items Drive. Members collected can goods, non-perishable items, winter wear clothing (hoodies, gloves, jackets, etc.), and blankets. The ladies braved the cold and withstood the windy gusts Saturday morning. Their work was not in vain as they continue to be a service to all mankind.

Thanks to the donations from chapter members and the community, several hundred pounds of food as well as winter wear was collected and will be donated to support the San Antonio Food Bank and homeless street outreach efforts in San Antonio.

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Nation’s Largest MLK March Cancelled

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Due to the current influx of omicron cases in and around San Antonio, the city’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. March has been cancelled. The event was previously scheduled to take place on January 17th, but concerns for public safety and continued presence of the virus on the route led to its cancellation.

The MLK board met and made the decision Thursday night. The board will decide what they plan to include in next Monday’s meeting.

Renee Watson, who is the chairperson of the Martin Luther King march, says that COVID-19 testing will be available together with vaccine shots at Pittman Sullivan Park.

As of Thursday afternoon, the most recent update from DreamWeek says their events are still on but their plans are impromptu.

The in-person event, which had been held every year since 1987, was changed to a virtual event in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

After over 20,000 diagnoses cases from the first week of the year, it makes sense to cancel a show for safety reasons.

Nathaniel Davis, past chair of Martin Luther King Junior March, died this week. We are saddened by his loss and extend our condolences to his family during this difficult time.

Stayed tuned to Black Video News for the latest statement and updates.

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