- June 20th, 2018
- in BOA In the News
Tyrell Jordan is a lawyer. He is not the gardening type.
His experience with agriculture is limited to this: When he was about 10, enjoying a sweet peach behind his mom's home near Finley Avenue in Birmingham, he had a thought.
I'm gonna stick this pit in the ground.
So he did. He dug a hole and stuck it in. He came back a few days later, expecting to see a sprout and ...Nothing.
I told you he was not the gardening type.
So he forgot about it and went on with life. He finished high school and the University of Alabama and came to see his mom. She pointed out the back door.
"There's a peach tree out back," she said. And there was.
After all that time that little thing took root and grew. It never did turn Jordan into a horticulturist. He gets his hands dirty with law. But it planted the seed.
So when a rental house Jordan owned in West Birmingham burned, he wondered what to do with the land. He wasn't going to rebuild, but loathed the notion of another vacant lot.
He had a thought. And that's where Marquita Hall comes in. Hall, you see, has a whole different appreciation for gardening.
She got it from her granddad, who loved to work in his yard. He grew vegetables to feed his family. But age caught up with him and the labor of constant watering became too much. He stopped gardening because it was simply too hard.
Then he stopped eating as healthily as he once had, and eventually died of a heart-related problem.
Hall believes he would have lived longer, and better, if he had been able to keep up his garden. She believes it so strongly that she started the Foundation for Inner City Enrichment to help cultivate gardens in poor communities.
So when a mutual friend, Toby Marcus, introduced her to Jordan it was like the peach pit sprouting.
They became an unlikely team, a lawyer whose agricultural experience consisted of a peach pit and a young woman passionate about green space. With Marcus, their liaison to the corporate world, they sought something better.
They are, of course, not the only ones who see urban gardens as a way to improve diets and lives in food deserts, to turn vacant lots into gardens for the city soul. But that's OK. They just want to improve the plots before them.
They want to start by installing water systems automated by smart solar technology. The goal is to teach the science and the art of gardening, to improve the neighborhood aesthetic and involvement, and to create sustainable gardens that won't break the backs of those who want to help.
Last month the trio learned the team had been accepted to compete in a SUNY Polytechnic Institute challenge to bring solar access to poor communities. It could bring a lot of prize money, and it certainly will bring training and resources to their effort.
They may or may not get the cash. I don't care. I can't help but think they already won.
Just like all those who try to do something a little better for their communities in Birmingham or anywhere. They could walk away and let things die. Or they could dig a hole. And plant a seed.
Funny thing about seeds. They grow into something magical.
A few years back, when Jordan almost died in a car wreck, his mother went to that peach tree and picked enough fruit to make peach preserves. She brought it in a jar to her son as he recovered. But he never ate it. Instead he put it on his desk and it sits there still.
It is a reminder of what a little pit can become. If only you put it in the ground.
Justin Zimmerman graduated from the University of Alabama with a BA in political science and philosophy, as well as an MPA with a concentration in public organizational management. He is currently supporting the U.S. Department of Treasury Enterprise Business Solutions (EBS) team. Previously Justin worked with the U.S. Department of State gaining experience in public diplomacy and government contracting.
Justin intends to concentrate his research on American politics and political theory, with a focus on black political behavior, black leadership with regards to the implementation of Machiavellian principles, and the failure of federalism in the black community.
The Minority Fellows Program (MFP) is a fellowship competition for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds applying to or in the early stages of doctoral programs in political science. The MFP was established in 1969 (originally as the Black Graduate Fellowship) to increase the number of minority scholars in the discipline. Each year, APSA awards up to 12 funded fellowships in the amount of $4,000.
The FCC voted to temporarily suspend government regulations protecting personal online data in 2-1 ruling on last week, the first major move of the Ajit Pai led commission. The rules, that were set to take effect last Thursday (March 2), would have required internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Comcast, to take“reasonable” measures [PDF] to protect millions of customers’ personal information. These measures would have included greater transparency for consumers if their data was compromised and more stringent regulations around the ISP’s collection of data.
Panelists at the Distributed: Markets conference discussed ways that blockchain could intersect with the advertising industry in light of the data privacy concerns that last week’s decision may foreshadow.
Panelists Justin Fisher, founder and CEO of VeriBlock, commented on the freedom that ISPs have in their distribution of viewer data.
“Essentially [the FCC] is going to give Comcast or your ISP the ability to watch all the websites you visit, and then sell that data and market it as such,” said Fisher. “I think it’s an interesting opportunity to maybe slide in between there and say, ‘If you’re going to watch what I do, at least give me a layer of protection.”
ISPs have near omniscient insight into their customer’s information and the marrying of their core internet services with the ability to collect and sell this data could potentially jeopardize highly sensitive information like social security numbers that might be embedded to a broader data scope.
Unlike Fintech, Healthcare and other data-centric industries, advertising, until recently, had not been flirting with blockchain technology in any public way. Adam Helfgott, the CEO of recently launched blockchain-based adtech company MadHive, commented on blockchain’s power to essentially disconnect the consumer from the metadata associated with their ad identity to maintain their privacy.
“The actual identity doesn’t matter so much. We don’t actually need to know who these people are,” said Helfgott. “A decentralized system where everyone has an ID of sorts and encrypted metadata around
their ID, based upon who captured that metadata, that can be unlocked on a case-by-case basis for each campaign, allowing new types of targeting.”
He proposed that a blockchain solution would not only reduce the potential for human error and meddling, but could create efficiencies through some of distributed ledger technology’s key attributes.
“Right now the collation of this metadata and personal data happens manually a with double blind list and someone in a secure room at Comcast connecting things together,” said Helfgott. “Smart contracts and hashed keys for transactions can make that a lot easier and cheaper for the ISPs and more fault-proof for all members of the ecosystem, including customers”
Also on the Distributed: Markets panel was Emily Vaughn, head of accounts at Gem. The enterprise blockchain solutions company is creating a pilot that, among other things, would give patients in the healthcare space greater control over who can access their medical records via cryptographic keys. Following in this same vein, a blockchain based advertising ecosystem could redistribute the power of identity management back to the original source of data; the consumer.
“With the right infrastructure, in a distributed environment, we can provide people with the power to choose when and where they share their personal data,” said Vaughn.
Given FCC’s calls to give fairly untamed reach to the ISPs and large data corporations, blockchain could empower consumers with a means to circumvent their susceptibility via alternative identity solutions. With MadHive, Helfgott hopes to work with the industry to form technologically sound standards that could achieve this long term and while also enabling great ad targeting.
“Blockchain could easily keep track of user identity in a pseudonymous way. This can be done on a per campaign basis, though there’s different ways to do it,” said Helfgott. “In the similar way that identity is pseudonymous in Bitcoin, we could keep the identities private through the blockchain network, bringing to the surface the relevant targeting parameters for brands.”
A roundtable discussion is slated to take place on March 10, 2017, at the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation. An initiative of the Commission on Development of Science and Education, the roundtable will be devoted to popularization and adoption of blockchain technology, especially as it pertains to the development of university innovation infrastructures and community startups.
This pending roundtable is one of a series of discussions being held as part of an open discussion platform that the Commission on Development of Science and Education of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation has formed to spotlight innovation and technological development at Russian universities.
The most important and recurring themes during the debates thus far have included the prospects of realizing the fourth industrial revolution doctrines in science and education; new possibilities and the pace of the roadmap of the National Technology Initiative; and the Institute of the Information Society development, both in Russia and around the world.
One of the key events of the discussion platform was held in October 2016. The roundtable titled "Blockchain Technologies: The Role of Youth in Legitimate Spaces of Information Technologies" was initiated by a group of young researchers from some of the leading Russian universities, primarily the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI.
The discussion sparked great interest among academic and scientific communities. It also highlighted the importance of "technologically" secure solutions within the framework of a blockchain platform, as well as the necessity of broad and open debate on "societal" risks connected with the existing challenges of such "technologically predominant platforms" used in crucial areas.
Continuing Discussions on Blockchain Technologies
New technologies in education, new avenues for the development of innovative startups, national economic and financial systems, healthcare, public administration, large data sets and global information security are
the issues that require direct discussions among experts, statesmen and public figures.
Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, noted at the Sochi International Investment Forum on February 27, 2017, that many business processes and social environments will be based on the principles of blockchain technology in the future.
In keeping with this mandate, a roundtable discussion to be held on March 10 at the Civic Chamber will include prominent experts from Russia and abroad.
The chairman of the Expert Council of the Agency for Strategic Initiative, Valery Aleksandrovich Fadeev, will take part in the discussions. Fadeev is also a member of the supervisory board, the director of the Institute for Social Planning and the editor-in-chief of Expert magazine. He will be joined by several experts from the leading universities and institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences as well as business communities who have also been invited.
Participants from the U.S. and China who will contribute their expertise on the subject are expected to include David Bailey, founder and chief executive officer of BTC Media , the world's largest blockchain and digital currency media group, and founder and managing partner of Digital Partners, an investor into early- and growth-stage financial technology startups; Russell Moore, designer and innovation director at TSYS , an international payments services platform; and Remington Ong, partner at Fenbushi Capital's Investment Fund , which supports startups around the world, leveraging blockchain technology across various applications.
Among the potential topics of discussion are the following:
1. Global trends in the development of blockchain technologies, including the promotion of secure technologies crucial for social development.
2. Blockchain startups and design of new innovative spaces in universities.
3. Is equal access to resources a new societal development paradigm or just a technology? What are the incumbent risks and prospects?
When Tyrell F. Jordan was preparing for college, the conversation became old hat.
“I would tell folks I was going to The University of Alabama, and they wouldn’t believe me. They wanted to say it was somewhere else. I would finally have to say, ‘No. Roll Tide. You see them on TV every Saturday,’” said Jordan, who grew up attending inner-city Birmingham public schools.
“Nobody believed me because people who looked like me and came from my area did not go to the University very much back then, and that was just 19 years ago.”
But Jordan did go to the University, with the help of scholarships and other financial aid. He pledged a fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, and formed lifelong friendships. He also found a mentor in his fraternity chapter’s faculty advisor, Dr. Samory Pruitt, now vice president of UA’s Division of Community Affairs.
Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from UA in 2001, and his juris doctor from the UA School of Law in 2004. With Pruitt’s encouragement, he then pursued an externship at the Kettering Foundation, a cooperative research nonprofit led by former UA president David Mathews. That externship, Jordan said, ended up being one of the more monumental experiences of his life.
Today Jordan is an attorney at his own firm, TFJ Law, in Birmingham. Grateful for the many people and experiences in his seven years at UA that shaped the course of his life, he recently found himself visiting campus more often — and not just for football games or to catch up with old fraternity buddies. This time, it was about giving back.
In 2016, he joined an advisory board, a group of outstanding UA alumni committed to community engagement and student success, for UA’s Division of Community Affairs. He also established a scholarship endowment to support students from underrepresented urban communities.
This new turn in Jordan’s life came, once again, at the encouragement of his long-time mentor.
“When we decided to create the Community Affairs Board of Advisors, Tyrell was at the top of my list,” said Pruitt, who remembers Jordan as wise beyond his years as a young undergraduate in Omega Psi Phi.
“He was very smart, carrying nearly a 4.0, and easy to talk to. He always understood what we were trying to do with the chapter,” Pruitt said. “I knew he was one of those people that, if you put him in a group, he is going to push the group to get things done.”
Jordan accepted the invitation to join the board, but surprised Pruitt by taking his new leadership role one step further.
“I just expected him to be a part of the difference we were trying to make through the board of advisors by mentoring students and supporting projects,” Pruitt said. “But he said to me, ‘I would like to do something a little more than that.’ I asked him what, and he said, ‘What does it take to endow a scholarship?’”
Soon after that conversation, the TFJ Law Firm Endowed Scholarship was created.
“My personality is such that I like to get in and get something done,” Jordan said. “As I learned more about how endowed scholarships work, it sounded like an opportunity to jump in and do something good, and hopefully, at the end of the day, help provide an opportunity to some other young man or woman who comes out of an inner-city area, like I did, to be able to pursue an education at the state’s flagship university.
“In my mind, this is just the beginning of that endowment. I hope I still have enough time left on this earth to get enough done to see it grow larger.”
Along with his outreach efforts on campus through the advisory board, the scholarship brings Jordan’s connection to the University full circle.
“Looking back at my life, I know that the assistance of many helped in providing me the opportunities to do what I now get to do, being a lawyer serving the greater Birmingham community,” Jordan said. “I know I, in all likelihood, would not have been allowed these chances but for the financial assistance, the support, the encouragement and the love of so many people along the way.”
Those same opportunities he is now passing on to others.
River Region Dermatology is now open in east Montgomery providing comprehensive skin care services on Berryhill Road behind EastChase.
About 10 jobs were created when the doors opened at the practice, which includes two dermatologists, a nurse practitioner, two aestheticians, two nurses, and three other employees.
River Region Dermatology (RRD) provides services in medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, and laser surgery, said Dr. Porcia Love, practice founder and medical director.
"In addition to treating common skin conditions in adults and children, such as acne, eczema, hair loss, skin cancer prevention and treatment, we also provide a variety of cosmetic, laser, and spa services," Love said.
The staff can treat wrinkles, pigmentation, thin or dull appearing skin, facial volume loss resulting in folds and jowls, acne and other scars.
Some of these treatments include Botox, Dysport, fillers, chemical peels, facial rejuvenation, microneedling, and a variety of skin care products, Love said. "We also have a variety of lasers and light devices available for laser hair removal, treatment of rosacea, skin tightening, psoriasis, vitiligo, and more," she added.
Love sees many trends in the field that can help patients confronting skin and other problems.
She said many patients are seeking noninvasive (nonsurgical) procedures to assist them in aging gracefully. Major advances in laser surgery and light therapy have revolutionized their use in the treatment of many skin conditions.
"RRD offers the latest technology in laser treatments for a variety of medical and cosmetic skin concerns including acne, rosacea, scars, redness, brown spots, large pores, uneven skin texture, and wrinkles," Love said.
"We have specialized training in treating different skin types with lasers, which is very important when choosing the correct laser."
She said that body conturing is another hot item with many people wanting to tighten and tone a variety of places after losing weight, giving birth, or having stubborn areas.
"We offer Exilis Ultra, the first non-invasive device that delivers radio frequency and ultrasound energy that can be used to tighten skin on the face, around the eyes, neck, and body in a way that is both long-lasting and natural looking," she said.
And platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a method of skin rejuvenation that uses the body’s natural healing growth factors to stimulate skin renewal. "It can be used to correct wrinkles, fine lines, large pores, uneven texture, and skin laxity. PRP is also very effective for hair loss in both men and women," Love said.
The new practice is the vision of Montgomery native Love. An EastChase location was chosen because it is one of the fastest-growing parts of the Capital City, and there is a large demand for dermatology services in the area, she said.
"The response has been overwhelming, and we have received positive responses from patients," she added.
Love received her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama, and her medical degree from Duke University. She completed her general surgery internship at Vanderbilt University, and her dermatology training at Duke University, where she served as chief resident.
She is also a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Montgomery Regional Medical Campus. For more information on the practice, visit rrdermatologylaser.com.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump on Friday announced that Yellowhammer Founder and CEO Cliff Sims will be taking a senior role in his incoming administration as Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy.
Sims founded Yellowhammer as his personal blog roughly five years ago and grew it into the state’s most influential media brand, with millions of monthly readers and listeners online and on the radio. He took a leave of absence last year to join the Trump campaign as communications advisor.
In his new job, Sims will take the lead in crafting the messaging coming out of the West Wing.
“It is an incredible honor to be asked to work in the White House and I look forward to serving the President and the country in this role,” Sims said.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sims will “play a key role in supporting President-elect Trump’s America-first agenda.”
Sims will resign as Yellowhammer’s chief executive officer effective on inauguration day. Yellowhammer’s chief business development officer, Brian Ellis, has been named acting CEO.
“Cliff’s vision and leadership have been an indispensable part of Yellowhammer’s growth to this point,” said Ellis. “He will be missed, but his passion for the state of Alabama and Yellowhammer’s mission to be the go-to source of news and commentary for the entire state are deeply engrained in our company’s DNA. We have an incredible team in place and look forward to building on the foundation that has been laid.”
Sims joins several other Alabamians in taking high profile positions in the Trump administration. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) appears on track to be confirmed as US Attorney General, Sessions’ former chief of staff Rick Dearborn will be Deputy White House Chief of Staff and Sessions’ former communications director, Stephen Miller, will be Senior Advisor to the President for Policy.
MONTGOMERY—At a time when Democrats are trumpeting the cracks made in the glass ceiling separating women from the highest positions in government, Alabama’s Republican Senior Senator Richard Shelby, quietly opened a new fissure by hiring Katie Boyd Britt as his new Chief of Staff.
“Katie is a talented and hardworking professional, whose energy and knowledge of the State will be an asset to my office,” said Sen. Shelby of her hiring. “I am excited to have her rejoin our team as my new Chief of Staff, and I look forward to her work to help me serve the people of Alabama.”
Britt formerly served as Shelby’s Press Secretary and more recently, as Deputy Campaign Manager and Spokeswoman for Shelby for US Senate 2016. She left the law firm of Butler Snow to rejoin the Senator’s team in September.
Britt’s petite frame and welcoming smile, on occasion, belie her tenacity of spirit, quick mind and fierce loyalty. Born in Enterprise, Alabama, Britt’s rise to prominence in politics surprises no one who knows her.
She is married to former Alabama and New England Patriots offensive tackle, Wesley Britt. The couple have two children, Bennett (7-year-old girl) and Ridgeway (6-year-old boy).
After being informed of his wife’s opportunity to serve the country, Wesley didn’t hesitate to encourage her to heed Senator Shelby’s request, even though it meant uprooting the family from Alabama.
Wesley, who is an up and coming professional with Alabama Power, put his wife’s opportunity above his career, something Katie has confided has given her great pride in him.
Other women hold the Chief of Staff position in the Senate, but Britt is the first from Alabama.
Katie and Westley Britt are not related to APR’s Editor-In-Chief, Bill Britt.