WTUL’s Senior Voice Hosts Longest-Running Reggae Show in US

sheppard

After watching the music industry evolve from transistor radios to mp3s, this 62-year-old reggae DJ fears the internet

This story was published on April 18, 2011 in Offbeat Magazine. 

The coffee shop on the corner of Carrolton and Oak Street, in Uptown New Orleans, is a century old, tall and white, with towering ceilings that bear the faded symbols of its days long ago as the neighborhood bank. It is mid-morning when the locals begin to file in, in droves, snaking their way to the long, narrow counter, as they have been doing for years, decades, even.

On one Saturday in November 2005, however, as the surrounding city was still staggering from Hurricane Katrina and everything seemed upside-down—businesses shut down, homes empty, knee-high grass where the streetcar used to run—the still-brewing coffee wasn’t the only welcome constant in the customers’ lives. Up on the overlooking balcony loft, Shepard Samuels, a round 57-year-old man with frizzy sideburns and long stringy brown hair parted down the middle, stood at a turntable, and spoke into a microphone, his deep, trembling, Southern voice familiar to listeners across the city, from the Ninth Ward to the Garden District to Metairie. The crew of college kids scurrying around him with technical equipment was broadcasting his words, as they slowly and deliberately trickled out, live on FM radio.
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Tulane-sponsored Debate League helps students overcome adversity

 As director’s teaching position ends, debate program’s future appears uncertain

This story was published on April 15, 2011 in The Tulane Hullabaloo. 

Sweating just a little in his pressed peach-colored shirt and striped tie, 14-year-old Malik Tropez faced the packed Lavin-Bernick Center conference room and argued his position that rap music causes more harm than good.

Peppered with personal anecdotes and data on rap’s correlation with adolescent crime, violence and promiscuity, Malik’s argument was compelling. In fact, if it weren’t for a few shaky words and mispronunciations, you might have never known that this confident young man had long battled a speech impediment and fear of public speaking.

Tulanes debate program has helped Malik Tropez,a 14-year-old at Lafayette Charter School, battle a speech impediment and crippling fear of public speaking.

“Now, I feel like I have something to say that matters,” said Malik, who has been debating competitively for two years. “Adults listen to me now.”

But Malik’s story, an unlikely metamorphosis from shy, inarticulate and apathetic to presenting coherent arguments on important issues, is emblematic of the Tulane Debate League’s impact on the 200 New Orleans public school students it serves. Since Tulane English postdoctorate fellow Ryan McBride launched the program in 2009, more than 150 Tulane students have coached children at six underperforming middle schools around the city in competitive debate.

“Once these kids catch a glimpse of their own potential, they are unstoppable,” McBride said. “They see what they are capable of, and they go for the intellectual challenge.”

The league held its largest debate tournament Saturday in the Lavin-Bernick Center, drawing 19 teams from eight schools. Approximately 50 Tulane students were the judges and coaches for the competitions, wherein one team had to prove a statement and the opposing team had to refute it. The judges determine the winning team to be the one that best laid out its argument beyond a reasonable doubt on topics ranging from free speech to drilling moratoriums. Read more of this post

On his grind

How this student entrepreneur went from food stamps to CEO 

Jude Collins sees every moment as an opportunity.

It is a calm, sunny Saturday afternoon in New Orleans when Jude Collins, 21, picks me up in his black Mercedes-Benz SUV.  All around us on Broadway Street, the Tulane student community is slowly waking up, hungover and lazy. But Jude is on a mission.

Jude is so productive that it’s as though time passes differently for him. Judging from the $100,000-company he runs, full Tulane business school courseload work he excels in, and family he takes care of, you would think Jude Collins had more than just 24 hours in each day.

“The early bird gets the worm,” he says in his gravelly Southern drawl. Like the leather interior of his car, Jude is looking immaculate—today he’s wearing a crisp Polo T-shirt, dark designer jeans, and squeaky-white Jordan sneakers. “I had to get on up out of the library ‘cause shit needs to be done right now. Man, you don’t even understand how platinum we about to go.” Read more of this post

My new audio feature launches on The Lens website

If you click on the headphone icon on these two stories:

http://thelensnola.org/2011/04/05/lakefront-boathouses-for-cheap/

http://thelensnola.org/2011/04/04/dcdbg-spending/

you’ll be able to hear “how The Lens got the story.” I produced and edited all the audio, and am super excited to keep going with this project. People always ask us how we get these investigative stories (sometimes more so than they ask about the actual story, but that’s another matter…) so we thought this would be a cool way to give our readers a look at the inner workings of a tedious but oh-so-glamorous newsroom. So far everybody seems pretty into it, all good feedback. Sweet.

“It’s Miss Grace to you, shorty”

Longtime Bruff worker Miss Grace serves Tulane students their daily omelets—along with a side of prayer, encouragement and scolding

It is icy cold and scarcely past dawn when, with three loud thumps, the car doors slam shut, sending echoes reverberating across the empty McAlister drive.

In a few hours, this flawless-paved street lined with manicured trees and idyllic shrubs will be teeming with chaos—students and professors walking, running, biking past each other in a flurry—but for now, Grace Bridges, 64, along with her 40-year-old daughter and 24-year-old grandson, cherish the silence as they trudge toward the looming brick building in the middle of Tulane’s campus, readying for their day’s work ahead of serving food to Tulane students.

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UNO Charter Network making moves to get every education major into classrooms

Published on April 1, 2011 at The Lens.

All education majors at the University of New Orleans would take on teaching roles in the four Capital One-UNO charter schools, under a new plan presented to the charters’ governing board.

The New Beginnings School Foundation oversees 1,640 students in four schools: P.A. Capdau Elementary, Gentilly Terrace Elementary, Medard Nelson Elementary, and Thurgood Marshall Early College High School.

As part of their restructuring toward a ‘professional development school’ model, the board members also voted unanimously on Saturday to transfer financial decision-making authority away from UNO to themselves. UNO will be solely responsible for the educational programs in the schools.

The hope is that this shift will improve school accountability and educational programs, said Vera Triplett, chief operating officer of the UNO Charter Network, a department within UNO’s College of Education.

“It got to be a bit convoluted figuring out who was accountable for what,” said Triplett. “UNO is a state entity, so…it got be a bureaucracy that K-12 systems are not used to dealing with. This decision is to take the focus off UNO to be able to deal with the educational side so they aren’t spending too much time on the operations.” Read more of this post