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June 7, 2024 30 mins
Shine the Light on Sickle Cell is an annual community awareness campaign to celebrate World Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19 as proclaimed by the United Nations in 2008 and to advocate for a universal cure. Shine the Light on Sickle Cell is led by a collaborative of 34 nonprofit, community-based organizations in the Northeast United States whose aim is to increase awareness of Sickle Cell Disease and advocate for treatments and better outcomes for individuals with the disease. Learn more at Shine the Light on Sickle Cell. #shinethelightonsicklecell. To tell us more I speak to Zemoria Brandon - Chair of the Shine the Light on Sickle Cell campaign.    

The “Right2ReadPhilly” Campaign offers support and resources so busy families can do fun things together that are proven to help kids become strong readers. One is promoting The Freedom Schools Alphabet Song – a phonics base song founded by Black teachers at the Freedom Schools movement of the sixty’s Civil Rights era. I speak to Dr. Heseung Song, President and CEO of Mighty Engine, Elaine Wells, Founder, Global Thinking Initiatives. She’s also a West Philly Reading Captain and Tiny Trekkers Leader. Also joining us is Sharif El-Mekki, Founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development.  

I speak to Media activist and PHILLY TRUCE Cofounder Mazzie Casher (aka Grand Agent) about his new single "Can't Say Love Enough" which has  taken the iconic Lift Every Voice and Sing, injected it with the soulful vibes of Philly International session players, and amped it up with beats that slap - hard. Dropping on National Gun Violence Awareness Day (June 7th) to highlight the urgency of the moment, with a  chorus that rivals the legendary "What The World Needs Now", a song that defined the Vietnam Era, "Can't Say Love Enough" is set to be the anthem of 2024.
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Episode Transcript

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Good morning. You're listening to Insight, a show about empowering our community.
I'm Lorraine Ballad Morrow. One songhelps us learn their names. This one
sings the sounds they make Aba kathe efaga Haija Kola. That's the Freedom
School song Attune to teach Kids Phonics. Updated from its origins during the sixties

Freedom School movement. It's reimagined forthe Right to Read Philly campaign. At
a time when so many songs promotenegativity, we have this lovely throwback song
Can't Say Love Enough by media activistand Philly Truce co founder Mazzi Kasher aka
Grand Agent. First. Shine theLight On Sickle Cell as an annual community

awareness campaign to celebrate World Sickle CellAwareness Day on June nineteenth, as proclaimed
by the United Nations, and toadvocate for universal care. Shine the Light
On Sickle Cell as led by acollaborative of thirty four nonprofit community based organizations
in the Northeast. To tell usmore is Zamoria Brandon. She is chair

of the Shine the Light On SickleCell campaign right here in the Delaware Valley
and has been a long time advocatethe raise awareness and funds for research regarding
a sickle cell. Great to seeyou and while the nineteenth World sickle cell
Awareness Dake, for those who arenot aware, give us a short summary

of what sickle cell disease is.Sickle cell is a disease of the red
blood cell. And when we thinkabout the red blood cell, we think
of a blood cell that's round,circular, moves very easily through the blood
vessel. And the sickle cells arein the shape of a half moon or

like a farmer's tool, a sickleand because of the way that they're shaped,
they don't live as long as theregular blood cell. So the normal
red blood cell lives about one hundredand twenty days. The sickle cell lives
twelve to twenty days. So youcan imagine the body is trying to replenish
itself, trying to keep up withall of that which sickle cell effects basically

all the organs in the body.There are many complications that are associated with
it, but it is a diseasethat actually began in Africa as the body's
defense mechanism against malaria, and thosepeople had something called sickle cell trait.
And when two trade carriers get together, there's a twenty five percent chance that

the baby will be born with sicklecell disease, a fifty percent chance the
baby will be born with the trait, and a twenty five percent chance the
baby won't have either. So inthe United States, we have one out
of every five hundred African Americans hassickle cell disease. They're approximately one hundred

thousand, but we know there aremore because one hundred thousand is the number
that we've been saying for decades nowthose trade carriers. One out of every
ten to twelve is a trade carrier, and they're almost three million in the
world that are trade carriers. Itis a very debilitating disease with many,
many, many complications. I wonderif you can get more specific about what

the impact of sickle cell is onan individual. What are the symptoms yet,
so we have children, for example, one of the things that we
talk about often that sins are wecall them warriors now, sickle cell warriors
to the emergency room is the pain. The pain that they're experiencing, and
the pain is based on the factthat these cells that I told you about,

the sickle cells that are in likea half moon or a sickle they
don't move very easily through the bloodvessel, and sometimes they get caught up
and connected. We call that likea log jam or a painful episode.
And when that happens, there's pain. It can be in the arms,
in the legs, in the back, in the head. Sometimes it can

be all over the body. Sowe have children that are hospitalized that need
opioid medication such as morphine, andmany children are at risk for strokes.
That's why it's important for the blooddrives that take place to be able to
donate blood so that those children willhave the right blood type for them if

they need to be transfused. Andsome of the other complications affect all the
organs in the body, the heart, the lungs, the liver, osteoarthritis
conditions causing people to have to havesurgery for their knees, for their hips
because of bone deterioration, and sothere are many many complications. Some people

are on dialysis. Just of course, my own experience of being married to
someone for twenty five years with sicklecell disease, the late Reverend Walter E.
Brand I saw it up close andpersonal, so I know the impact
that it has unfamily. There havebeen some exciting new developments regarding treatment for

sickle cell providing some element of hope. Can you tell us a little bit
about what's been happening. Yeah,there are actually two gene therapy drugs on
the horizon that have been FDA approved, along with other medications. But this
is life altering, life changing.Actually, there's a twelve year old boy,
I believe he's in the DC areathat is going through the process of

this particular treatment for gene therapy.It's two pharmaceutical companies that have come out
with two drugs, but two proceduresthat can be used to actually you can
consider it a cure. Everyone isnot eligible though, so we still don't
have a universal cure. That's whatwe're hoping for, where it doesn't matter

what your age is, it doesn'tmatter whether you have a sibling with the
same bone marrow or anything like thatfor like bone marrow transplantation. So there's
hope on the horizon. That's beena long time coming for the sickle cell
community, you know, so we'relearning more about it. It also is
a very costly procedure right that mostpeople cannot afford, and so states we're

working with Medicaid directors and insurance companiesto be able to make this affordable for
people that are eligible and people thatwould want to go through the extensive process
that is required for this to manifest. Zamora. The nineteenth is shine the
Light on Sickle Cell Day? Howcan we shine the light on sickle cell

What can we do on that dayin the Philadelphia area? And we have
something called paint the town red?And so we have right now eleven structures
that will be lit up in red. And why red because red is the
color of the blood cell and thisis what causes the many complications that happen
in someone's life who's living with sicklecell. So they can wear something red,

they can go to the buildings.You will see them. It'll be
the Pico Energy Crown Lights. It'llbe the FMC tower at the Sierra Center.
It'll be the Sierra Center. It'llbe the Franklin Institute, it will
be one Liberty Place to Liberty Place. It'll be the Lytch Building, it'll
be the Franklin Square Fountain. You'lljust see red when you see red.
Now we know June nineteenth is Juneteenth, so you're going to see red,

black and green. But we representthe Red We do a car caravan and
we just ride downtown or in Westley, oh. The Penn Pavilion at the
University of Penn Hospital will also belit up and red. People can wear
red. People can do something intheir own neighborhood. We have people that

are doing blood drives. We havegolf tournaments going on. We have people
that are partnering in New Jersey withthe Juneteenth Organization with a block party.
If you have a light on yourporch, change the ball and put a
red bullb in on that porch.It's an important time and we're not competing

with anyone. We know the importanceof juneteen. We know the importance of
June nineteen. And it was theDemocratic Republic of the Congo that introduced a
resolution to the United Nations to declareJune nineteenth as World Sickle Cell Awareness Day.
Because of June team So Juneteenth wasa catalyst for World Sickle Cell Day.

And if people want more information aboutshine the light on sickle cell and
also all the events, all ofthe information and resources that your organization,
the Sickle Cell Association Tri State,tell us how we can find out more
about all those things To find outdirectly about Shine the Light. We have
our partner in Maryland, the WilliamE. Proudford Foundation, and on their

website they have something called Synergy Shinethe Light. If you click on that,
all the material that you need toget the word out. We're asking
people to spread the word. Everythingthat you would need our call to action,
all the information is there and itwill show you a listing of what's
being done. This is coming outof the Northeast region, this Shine the

Light initiative. It's a federal grantthat's covering this initiative that we have in
this Northeast region. And I'll tellyou Lorraine that last year we're keeping the
stats on what's happening. We hadseventeen countries that participated in the Shine the
Light initiative. But if people dowant direct information, they can certainly call

our office at area code two onefive four seven, one eight six eighty
six for Zamorian Brandon. I willbe happy to get their email address and
I can forward them all the materialsrelated to Shine the Light. This is
our sixth year and when we startedout, maybe we had a couple of

buildings in Philadelphia, and now wehave a PR company that's working with us,
Shine PR. We have a socialmedia company called Brand three, and
they have really boosted what we're doing. We did try to reach out to
the Empire State Building to get thatlit up and read. We weren't successful

this time, but we're going tokeep moving forward on that. This is
a labor of love. This isan opportunity to raise awareness. You might
not have anyone in your family thathas sickle cell. You might not know
anyone, but just to know thatit affects people of African descent and the
greatest numbers is important enough to sayI want to do something. I want

to get involved and if people wantto know more about what's happening in Philadelphia,
the Delaware Valley Chapter of the SickleCell Association, what is that website
www dot Sickle sell Disorder dot com. We're also on Facebook, we have
an Instagram account. They will beable to get information that way as well.

I thank you so much for givingme the opportunity to shine the light
on sickle cell on this day.And we look forward to June nineteenth,
and there are days before and daysafter that. Some of these structures will
be lit up and read and We'revery excited about the possibility for this sixth

year fantastic. It is Shine theLight On Sickle Cell Day on the nineteenth,
and there's all kinds of ways thatyou can raise awareness, your own
awareness or others awareness by participating inthis event. It's a campaign in its
sixth year. Samorio Brandon, Chairof the Shine the Light On Sickle Cell
Campaign right here in the Delaware Valley, Thank you so much, Thank you,

Loran. Right now, we arelooking at ways to encourage young kids
to read, to get them readingat grade level by the end of third
grade. And the reason for thatwe know for sure that if kids read
at grade level by fourth grade,they will more likely graduate from high school

and go on to higher education.And that's why the Right to Read program
is in effect and the Freedom School'sAlphabet Song, which we'll be telling you
all about. And we're being joinedright now by folks who are going to
discuss this very important issue, DoctorHisong's Song, President and CEO of Mighty
Engine, Elaine Wells, founder GlobalThinking Initiatives. She's a West Philly reading

captain and Tiny Trekkers leader. Andwe also have the great Sharif Almecki,
founder and Chief executive officer for theCenter for Black Educator Development. First of
all, let's begin with you Doctor'ssong I love saying that. Tell us
about this program, this program calledRight to Read Philly. How is it
different than all the things that we'veseen up until now. Well, thank

you Lorrain for having us on yourshow and for all you do all the
time supporting Philly families on our children. So what we're trying to do with
the Right to Read Philly campaign ismake it easier for hardworking, loving families
to grow strong readers. Like yousaid, we all want our children to
become confident readers, so they eachfeel like schools for them that they can

achieve academically because we know they canwrite. To Read Philly was co created
by Philly families and designed with readingadvocates including Commune leaders like Sharif and reading
captors like Elaine Why to make iteasier for Philly families to do fun,
free and easy things with their children. And we start with the Freedom School's
Alphabet song. So you know what'sgreat about the Alphabet song. We all
know that goes like ABCDEFG. Itdoes a great job teaching kids letter names.

But the Freedom Schools a bit soteaches kids the sounds that letters make.
And it goes something like, Elene, do you want to help me
out with this? Oh? Okay, looking to get a performance here,
let's let's hear it. Throw downgirls. One song helps us learn their
names. This one sings the soundsthey make. Aba ka the efaga,
hai ijaku, lamnopakorra sata zayahza.Freedom Schools show the way learning letters every

day, sounds that make us readingstars singing how they really are. Oh
wow, that's pretty cool. Well, you know, phonics is definitely the
way to go. That's how Ilearned to read. I'm Sharif al Mecki.
You are part of this program.Tell us about the Freedom Schools for
those who don't know their history educators. Yeah, no, absolutely. Freedom

Schools has long traditions. You know, there's both the formal and informal version.
The formal version, started by Snickin Mississippi, is part of the
Freedom Summer. As Charlie Cobb andothers were noticing we're getting people registered to
vote, they also said, hey, we have to work with children as
well, and we're talking about thecivil rights movement of the sixties. Yes,
absolutely, but there's also been aninformal version where freedom schools, where

people you know on this continent haveforever passed on information, passed on learning
even when it was illegal, andpeople risk their limbs in life to teach
other black people and children how toread. And so that is part of
the long standing tradition of you know, education for liberation concept, mindset,

theory, and practice. And thiswas one of the examples that I participated
as a three or four year oldwhen our cousin's port on sixty third Street
off of the sixty third in Lancaster, Doctor Susette abdul Hakeem had a program,
a freedom school's program basically on herporch. This was a part of
it, and it was called actionReading. It was a lot of movement,

it was a lot of phonics,and it was the song that doctor
Song and sister Elaine just demonstrated.I like to get a layin up on
the my microphone here. First ofall, you perform that very beautiful,
very impressed. Well, so tellus what your connection is with freedom schools.
Like doctor Song said, I ama West Philadelphia reading captain. It
is something that I went into verywholeheartedly because for the last twenty five years

I've been a quality education activist inand around the city of Philadelphia. For
whatever reason, our children's education hasnot been as quality as it should be.
Just being frank as a parent ofthree sons and ten grandchildren, I
found it necessary twenty five years agoto start trying to supplement what the kids

weren't learning in public schools, andso the Freedom School's Alphabet Song is a
great example that movement teaching kids funand free ways to learn, not just
how to recognize letters, but toknow how they sound, how you're making
the connections to be able to readby a certain age. I met doctor
Sung through the West Philadelphia Reading Captains. West Philadelphia Reading Captains are the best

reading captains. I just want tomake that we do a lot. Yes,
we do a lot of community basedwork supporting parents in giving them ways
that don't overwhelm but are very effectiveand impactful in teaching young kids early literacy
and making you know, a lastingimpact on their success in schools. Because

the educational equality is social justice forsure. Absolutely. He song tell us
how can people find out more aboutthe right to read? Philly program and
all the different resources that are beingmade available for free to parents who'd like
to get their kids reading at gradelevel. But we've got a website home

right to Read Philly dot work thatis chock full of so many resources.
When we say make it easier forfamilies, we truly mean that. So
we have created so many different kindsways, and if you already know it,
then then there are even more waysto take it further. By setting
up a beat at a dance toet, we're gonna be holding a double Dutch
contest around it, and we're gonnajust have lots of fun with that all

summer long, because that's the key. Playful learning is at the heart of
all of this. And so writeto read Philly dot org. Check it
out. I think you'll love whatyou find there, including videos of families
by the way singing the song.But we also want you to follow us
on Instagram Rite to Read Philly.And then also throughout the summer, there's

just going to be more and moreevents where we're going to show up within
West Philly reading captains in the house, but also others we know they're about,
but also other reading captains make surethat you know that it's the number
two write to read Philly and notthe preposition to you. And the reason
why we're playing off of the numbertwo is because it takes two for playful

learning to happen. It takes two. I love it. I love it,
sir, we found Mackey. Ijust want to deter very briefly,
because as you're very engaged in gettingmore black educators, we know a long
time ago this was the norm.After the Brown versus Board of Education,
we lost tens of thousands of blackteachers in the country. Has never really
recovered. And we know short term, just during that year, a black

student with a black teacher is morelikely to have better grades, better test
scores, better attendance, better homeand school communication, less likely to be
suspended, expelled, or even referredfor discipline, more likely to have access
to rigorous courses like honors classes,ap classes. Overall, that's a better
school year for that black child.But what we've seen research longitudinally is also

black child is more likely to graduatehigh school, more likely to enroll in
college. And so all of theseoutcomes speak to the relationship the culture,
the introspection, and the depth ofknowledge that black teachers bring the bear when
they're leading classrooms, schools, anddistricts. Freedom School's Alphabet song is an
example of black pedagogy. So whenwe lost black teachers, we just lose

their bodies and their influence. Welost so much of their strategies. So
what I love about that I TreatPhilly campaign is it's having all of us
rediscover a strategy that was in placelong ago, fifty years ago. We
don't have to reinvent the week.We don't have to take the week is
already there and it works. Elaine, I want to give you the last
word. Obviously, the West Phillyyou know, Reading Captains rock, But

if people want more information about thework that you're doing, and also if
they want to become a Reading Captain, how would they do that. The
Reading Captains have weekly I believe ReadingCaptain training and you can go to Philadelphiareadingcaptains
dot org to sign up for thattraining. They do have an online version.
The other thing I want to mentionis through this Right to Read campaign,

we're also having we're providing a giveaway. We're asking Philly families to show
us their unique spin on the FreedomSchool's Alphabet Song for a chance to win
one thousand dollars. I make surethat my Tiny so my youth trail in
nature program called Tiny Trekkers. It'sa youth trailer nature program for kids ages
two through nine and their families,which is important families are included. We

are diving deeply into the Freedom School'sAlphabet song. And on this next Saturday,
June fifteenth, we will be atWhitby Park. We're going to do
a trail hike with the kids andtheir families and we will be doing this
hike to the Freedom School's Alphabet Song. So it's open to the public.
Come out and join us, havesome fun, learn the song. We're

going to be having great resources outthere. And yeah, I'm a West
Philly reading captain. Today i leavehere and you know, we're gonna make
sure that our kids are equipped tobe successful in school. Yes, they
learn, and it will be funand schiry fell Mecki. If people want
more information about the Black Educators DevelopmentProgram, where do they find out more?

They can find us at www dotThecenter blacked dot org and on all
the social media platforms at Centre BloeFantastic. We need more black educators.
I have to give a shout outwherever you are. Mister Burns. He
was my eighth grade algebra teacher.He was the only black teacher in the
school that I went to that year, and he was so smart that he

was able to correct a textbook andsaid, hey, you were wrong,
and they changed it. Mister Burnswas amazing and we thank you for everything
that you did for me in highschool. He actually passed me in algebra
and that was a feat in itself. Listen, I want to thank you
all so much. Sharif Almecki,Founder and Chief executive officer for the Center

for Black Educator Development. Elaine Wells, Founder and Global Thinking Initiative. She's
a West Philly reading captain and TinyTrekker's leader and doctor. Heasang's song president
and CEO of Mighty Engine, whichis the organization that's getting the word out
about Write to Read Philly. That'sright, the number two Read Philly dot
org. Thank you all for joiningus today at a time when so many

recording artists are being criticized for themessages, the negative messages that sometimes their
lyrics can convey. Comes this newsingle which has dropped on June seventh,
which is a National gun violence AwarenessDay. Can't Say Love Enough is the
name of the song, and joiningus is the co founder of Philly Truce.

Media activist and performing artist Massy Casher. Thank you so much for joining
us today, Rain, Thank youfor having us as always appreciate your support.
Thank you very much. Well tellus about this new song, Can't
Say Love Enough. This is apassion project. I am a recording artist.
Philly Truce is kind of outgrowth ofmy work as an artist. I
have been very active as an artistsince Philly Truth started in twenty twenty.

As we hit our three year marka little ago, I needed to,
you know, kind of let offsteam. So this song right here is
very special because it has a lotof elements of brotherly love. Musically,
it's based on a lift. Everyvoice in Saint Feature artists are brothers of
mine from when I began my artisticcareer. We had a group called Name

back in Philadelphia in ninety five,ninety six, ninety seven, ninety eight.
Kind of underground seed then, andit has some very esteemed session players
on it. Alfi Pilot, everybodyknows, Alfie Polot and the late Great
TNT on the base mister Jones,who we lost I believe last year.
You know, it's a lot ofbrotherhood and the concept and just really want

to bring a message of brotherly loveand a song for him. It was
something that's you recognizable to just abouteverybody in the communities. We really want
to touch with it. Let's talkabout how we can obtain a copy of
this new single and also tell ushow we can get in touch with the

work that you're doing with Philly truthas well. Can say Love Enough is
streaming now on all the platforms.It is under my artists name Grand Agent
at Dame. As far as PhillyTruths, yes, we're at Phillytrups dot
com. What we do you knowon the day day Basis has worked towards
sustainable Black manhood, which is forus a critical piece of public safety in

Philadelphia. Primarily we running two programsright now, Peace Patrol, Community led
Visible Deterrence, which we have beenover this year able to turn into actually
a paid position for justice impacted individuals. So that's a huge developer for us
and our Safe City Boys, ourSafe City Solutions, which we kick off

Safe City Summit on June seventeenth,and we'll be working with young men twelve
to seventeen all throughout the summer onsocial emotional skills, career exploration, and
community service. So you can goto Philly Truth dot com. We can
always use financial support, we canalways use volunteers, we can always use

some good vibes of good energy.That's really what this song is about,
really trying to push Philadelphia into livingup to his name's sake. We got
it deep within us, but wegotta we got to bring it to the
service a little bit more. Well, it's nice to have a message musically.
Can't say love enough. What agreat, great message that is.
Thank you so much for joining us, Mazzi Kasher. And what is your

professional name? Grand agent? GrandAgent, grand agent, can agent.
Some people around townly recognize that.All right, all right, well listen,
we're going to close out and letfolks listen to this song. Mazzie
Casher, thank you for joining ustoday. Thank you always take care agent.
Can't say it enough times Deephanie meand got enoughing new enough lobs you

described it to. I feel whenyou can how to rise out of the
com And that's just the tip ofthe Iceberg the best of the Robert Back.
You can listen to all of today'sinterviews by going to our station website
and typing in keyword Community. Youcan also listen on the iHeartRadio app they
Words Philadelphia Community Podcast. Follow meon Twitter and Instagram at Lorraine Ballard.

I'm Lorraine Ballard tomorrow and I standfor service to our community and NIA that
empowers. What will you stand for? You've been listening to Insight and thank
you. I got new foods,love enough times is what I can't say.

Feller name brothers because they'm a familyrumbled with our pause because the compound
deeper signals some devil's walk one makethe old brend news. So the in
front of my brothers to fire themalive, and I have my brother's hoses
and grand State calls. The fansdon't go to understand the gobble them.
Man, don't feel job Turkey,clap your hands, give thanks. Love

was the gold and the souls therank drop them because it ain't take food.
Everything around me blackness, God bruised. We're paying us. The problem
is the tool. Till my brothersaid, I love them because I'm not
no fool. I can't I canI can't, I can't, I can't.

No dudes were the first two dudesI knew who had something in the
living room called the Dash. Pleasureto meet you, sir, So you
live here too, Hon'm pardon meas you were. I met mister Jones
at Freedom picking cotton. I wasrocking my headphones. He backed me up

with the black Fiber. What youlistening to me? And the age Bool,
mister Fowler, The beat is afool. You think that cool?
Home me from work, me homeme from school? That was forgetting.
That was the day we did.I run DMC and jam Master J clicked
up on the raft Group chip andbecame brus How they say it goes yeah,
boys and men like that group did. History is the rest on how
they saying us at the p
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