Before Dwayne A. Jones even landed in the country with the nonprofit group, he immediately started seeking out churches, not realizing how big Ghana is. The first church that came up was Amazing Grace Gospel International church. He found a name on the site to contact — Isaac Akorli. When Dwayne arrived in Ghana with the Habitat group, Isaac was waiting for him at the airport, having traveled 8 hours by bus to meet him.
“When he got there, he didn’t have anywhere to stay, so I invited him to stay in the room with my roommate and me from the Habitat group. We talked and chit-chatted. He wanted me to come to visit. I said, ‘No, I can’t separate from my team. This is my first time in the country, and I’m with a group of people.’ So I promised him that I would make another trip and come back,” said Jones.
And he did. It was the beginning of a friendship and shared ministry that would last nearly 20 years. Jones fell in love with the kids, people, and culture in Ghana.
Jones returned the following year and visited Isaac in the Volta Region, west of Togo. Isaac had active ministries there in about eight churches, seven in Ghana and one in Togo. Jones, an ordained Baptist minister at New Olivet Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, preached, baptized people in the ocean, and held a revival for eight days.
“I think it was 26 different locations. It was a great experience and some challenges too. When I was baptizing in the ocean there, they had to tie a rope around me to keep me from being pulled out by the waves,” said Jones.
He returned to Ghana several times with his teams. In addition to his ministry, Jones wanted to help the people. He initially focused on building houses as he did with Habitat. The people were always gracious, but as time went on and he traveled to remote villages and had one-on-one meetings with village chiefs, he started to ask people what they wanted, and housing wasn’t a priority.
“They said, ‘We don’t have a problem with housing. We need something for health care. We need something to educate our children. We’re okay living in little mud huts and little houses,” said Jones.
Have Faith Orphanage children in class learning to speak Portuguese.
With that, Jones, now 54, started to shift the focus of his trips. He partnered up with Americares, a global nonprofit organization focused on health and development that responds to individuals affected by poverty, disaster, or crisis, and arranged for doctors and different health care professionals to provide medical care in churches. On one of his trips, he brought a pediatrician from his church who took care of many kids with childhood obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, colds, and rashes. The medical professionals gave HIV/AIDS tests and educated women about personal hygiene items, birth control, diabetes, and blood pressure.
Have Faith Orphanage teens listening to Jones preach.
Often, well-intentioned foreign volunteers will come with their agenda for helping people in other countries. Jones was able to have a significant impact by simply asking people what they needed. That’s how the idea for creating a school to teach sewing came to fruition. He set up a meeting with the West Africa AIDS Foundation (WAAF), had an informal conversation, and took notes. There he learned about The Almond Tree, an income-generating project created for people living with HIV and AIDS in Accra, Ghana, by WAAF in partnership with the AIDS Committee of London in Canada. In The Almond Tree’s program, people make clothes, hats, and all kinds of items to sell. However, outside of Accra, poor people who wanted to do the same thing didn’t have electricity in the remote areas.
“I went to an internet café where they have old computers connected up to car batteries. I did some research, and I found out we could buy a sewing machine for $50. So I went and bought 15-16 sewing machines. We went to the remote village and took them there. Put them up on a table, and they screened women and brought women in, and they set up training to teach women how to sew and how to become self-sufficient by selling the clothes,” said Jones.
That training facility was named the Amazing Grace Sewing School.
Over the years, Jones’ missionary travels have expanded beyond Ghana and into India and Haiti. He has brought anywhere from two to eight people on various trips, including family, friends, educators, preachers, people who want to do construction, and church members. The only requirement is that they understand it’s a faith-based Christian trip, and they’ll need to participate and accept ministry opportunities, no matter where they are in their faith. It’s not a vacation. That said, it does take a lot out of him.
“Every time I go on a mission trip, I come back more tired than when I left. For one, it’s spiritually draining, and two, the travel … being a team leader, there’s a lot of logistics between food, immunizations, safety, internet access, currency exchange, lodging, coordinating with the host, and just making sure people have a great experience. It’s always stressful for me, but I’ve been doing it long enough it gets easier with time. There’s a lot involved before I go,” said Jones.
Danger and Corruption
Being a missionary can have dangerous consequences. In 2005, Jones was in Togo when Gnassingbe Eyadéma, the president of Togo at the time, died of a heart attack. Eyadéma’s son was attempting to take over the government, and a war broke out. He was trapped in Togo and couldn’t get out. They had shut the country down, and the border was closed.
“In Togo, the country’s national language is French, but they have that native African tongue. I didn’t speak French or the native tongue. There was a guy who was an interpreter, and we’re at the internet café. We see these guys in big pickup trucks with bandanas and suits on, and I said, ‘Oh, we got a soccer gang.’ You know I didn’t know what was going on,” said Jones. “I had to call the embassy, and they were sending some Apache helicopters, but the pastor was able to negotiate with the people at the border, and they got me out of the country.”
And then there are the nefarious activities of corrupt people. In 2020, even with the COVID pandemic raging, he traveled to the Have Faith Mission Orphanage in Haiti. No one came in or left except the teachers. Even he only left twice during his stay. At the orphanage, they follow the US protocols with mask-wearing. However, Jones said around town that wasn’t the case. He pointed out that at the time, very few people were diagnosed with COVID. In the two days he was there, they had zero cases. That said, he was asked multiple times in the airport to see his negative COVID test.
“It was four checks to see if you had your COVID test and a temperature check on your forehead before you could even get to baggage claim,” said Jones.
Like his visits to Africa, he tried to bring the Haitian kids vitamins, medicine, support items for personal hygiene, education supplies, and even some toys and fun things. In Haiti, the orphans haven’t necessarily lost their parents. In many cases, the parents aren’t able to care for their children, but they still maintain a relationship. It’s like foster care, adoption, and an orphanage all in one. However, he didn’t make it out of the airport without people stealing some of his supplies and goodies.
“I had 12 bags of candy for the kids. They stole candy at customs,” said Jones. “I had 14 little fire tablets for them to do wifi and go online. The airport police wanted to take those, but they extorted $100 instead. The guy was there from the orphanage and everything.”
Jones says he’s had customs agents demand money for his medicines, and they’ve confiscated syringes and items to treat diabetes. But in one particular case, the corruption resulted in souls being saved. Jones had to return to the airport a few times to get all of his luggage. One time on his way back to the airport, he saw a little girl walking down the street. The people he was with dismissed her as a peasant girl, but he wanted to talk to her. With a translator, he learned her name was Nadez and that she was from a remote village and hungry. He got her some food and made her one of those twisty balloons entertainers often give young kids.
“I ended up asking her, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ She said no. So I told her a story about Jesus Christ and asked her if she’d like to accept Jesus. She said yes. So I prayed with her right there. She accepted Jesus, and before I left, there were 200 and some people there who accepted Jesus at the airport,” said Jones. “I’d go with one intention, and then something else happened. I’d tell people maybe there was a reason my medicine was confiscated from me so that I could meet Nadez.”
I Build By Faith
Jones and children from Have Faith Orphanage.
Jones is an international missionary, but he also has a construction business. He received a degree in architectural engineering from Tennessee State University and a master’s in management from the University of Phoenix, where he’s currently working toward a Ph.D. in organizational management. Dwayne A. Jones Construction Company, LLC, is what has helped to fund his missionary trips. As much as he’s accomplished around the world, he’s also created a name for himself by taking on poverty in the United States through building personal “tiny houses” for the homeless, organizing bike drives, and sprouting up community gardens. But poverty in the United States still isn’t like it is in Haiti or Africa.
“It’s totally different because even with our people in poverty, they have way more means and access. It’s on a scale that will blow your mind because if a person is in poverty here in the United States, they have access to running water somewhere, even if you take a homeless person. They can go to a restaurant, and they can go to use the bathroom facility. In Haiti, you don’t have running water anywhere,” said Jones.
He puts all of his community service efforts and ministries under the umbrella organization of “I Build By Faith.” It started out as connecting his faith to his construction business and profession, but now it’s all about community building and changing lives. Jones says the most significant difference between Haiti and Africa is the distance when it comes to poverty.
“The same construction, people, same food, same problems, same poverty, they’re just in a different place. It is so similar, it’s eerie,” said Jones. “I would like to provide a facility where young people here in my community, Orange Mound (Memphis, TN), can help rebuild this community and be an international hub to bring children from Haiti and Africa to Orange Mound and take kids from Orange Mound to those countries and get that exposure. I want to make a global educational facility for both sets of children, here and abroad. This is pre-pandemic, but I still believe by faith that it can happen.”
Good parenting advice is hard to find. In fact, many of us have spent a lot more money than we’d like to admit on self-help books when all of the advice we’ve ever needed on being a great parent could be found right in the Bible. Enter the perfect resource for moms of the 21st Century: Successful Moms of the Bible.
Author Katara Washington Patton, a fellow mom-on-the-go, brings us an in-depth look at the stories of ten, strong women of the Bible who serve as great examples of being a successful mother by any means necessary.
“It’s based on biblical characters but it really is for contemporary moms,” Patton says about the first installment of her new 3-part series. Each chapter begins with an overarching lesson based on the stories of each biblical character.
“I really tried to mix it up,” Patton says. “Of course, I had to include my favorite, Ruth, so she came naturally, and of course, I had to include Mary, the mother of Jesus.”
Patton also included ladies that may be a bit less familiar, including Jochebed, the mother of Moses. Patton’s chapter on Jochebed embodies the concept of protecting your children at all costs. “That woman had guts,” she says. “She saved her son’s life!”
Although her goal was to share the stories of other moms, Successful Moms of the Bible also gives us a glimpse of Patton’s own close-knit relationship with her mother. “My mom died ten years ago in May, so writing about moms is very close and personal to me as we honor the 10-year anniversary of her death,” she says.
Patton says we can expect the other two books in the Successful series within the next several months. Successful Women of the Bible is scheduled for release in August 2016 and SuccessfulLeaders of the Bible, the third and final installment, will be available early 2017.
Editor’s Note: Lisa Huisman Koops researches how parents incorporate music into everything from daily chores and routines to family and religious practices. It’s something she believes has taken on more importance now that families are spending more time together in close quarters due to COVID-19. Here, Koops elaborates on the concept of parenting musically and what it involves.
1. What is parenting musically?
Parenting musically is the way I describe what happens when moms and dads use music for many nonmusical tasks and goals. These activities can involve everyday things or ways to better relate to one another. For example, a mother can sing a song to help cue her kids to brush their teeth. Or a father can use a playlist to make Saturday morning chores more fun. Children can also sing songs with grandparents through videoconferencing as a way to deepen their emotional bonds.
An example of parenting musically – helping a child brush their teeth for a certain amount of time. Author provided (No reuse)1000 KB (download)
An example of parenting musically – helping a child speak about their day. Author provided (No reuse)2.02 MB (download)
These are just some of the ways to get children to see the richness in the ways they can experience the world through music.
2. What are the most interesting examples you’ve seen?
Several families in my research project used music to help develop their child’s identity. For instance, by singing Hungarian folk songs she had learned growing up, one mother encouraged her daughter, Francesca, to sing them over Skype with her grandparents in Hungary.
One couple curated a playlist for their daughter Maggie as a way to nurture her identity as an African American girl growing up in a transracial adoptive family with white parents.
This family intentionally introduced a broad range of musicians, including many who are African American, and talked about the importance of familiarity with music as a form of social meaning.
Other families used music for transitions and rituals. One father composed little songs for his son Joel to help him through his bedtime routine. The songs were cues for what each of them needed to do as well as a joyful way to connect.
Another family, who were observant Orthodox Jews, used music throughout their daily and weekly religious practices and holidays. For instance, the children learned songs at home and school about Purim, a Jewish holiday, that explained the background and significance of their celebrations.
3. Does parenting musically involve formal music lessons?
It depends on the family. There can be more than one reason for parents to engage their children in music through formal lessons as well as in everyday life. I’ve found that having several reasons for enrolling kids in music lessons might help keep children interested when enthusiasm flags or practicing becomes a struggle.
Parents should communicate whatever their and their children’s hopes and dreams are to music teachers. If a teacher assumes the goal is for my daughter to be the top violinist in a youth orchestra, when my goal is for my daughter to understand and accept that it’s OK to struggle to master a difficult skill, there can be a mismatch that leads to frustration on all sides.
There’s no one right way to parent musically, and no one best way to be musical. Learning informally with online materials, taking time to explore children’s musical passions through listening to music together or rocking out to quarantine parodies – these are all ways to enjoy and grow with music.
For me personally, the goal of parenting musically is to embrace experiences with my four children today that help us navigate hurdles in life, bring us together as a family and develop skills and interests that will be with them throughout their lives.
This story is from a partnership that includes NPR, KQED and KHN.
For months, journalists, politicians and health officials — including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci — have invoked the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study to explain why Black Americans are more hesitant than white Americans to get the coronavirus vaccine.
“It’s ‘Oh, Tuskegee, Tuskegee, Tuskegee,’ and it’s mentioned every single time,” said Karen Lincoln, a professor of social work at the University of Southern California and founder of Advocates for African American Elders. “We make these assumptions that it’s Tuskegee. We don’t ask people.”
When she asks Black seniors in Los Angeles about the vaccine, Tuskegee rarely comes up. People in the community talk about contemporary racism and barriers to health care, she said, while it seems to be mainly academics and officials who are preoccupied with the history of Tuskegee.
“It’s a scapegoat,” Lincoln said. “It’s an excuse. If you continue to use it as a way of explaining why many African Americans are hesitant, it almost absolves you of having to learn more, do more, involve other people — admit that racism is actually a thing today.”
It’s the health inequities of today that Maxine Toler, 72, hears about when she asks her friends and neighbors in Los Angeles what they think about the vaccine. As president of her city’s senior advocacy council and her neighborhood block club, Toler said she and most of the other Black seniors she talks with want the vaccine but are having trouble getting it. And that alone sows mistrust, she said.
Toler said the Black people she knows who don’t want the vaccine have very modern reasons for not wanting it. They talk about religious beliefs, safety concerns or a distrust of former U.S. President Donald Trump and his contentious relationship with science. Only a handful mention Tuskegee, she said, and when they do, they’re fuzzy on the details of what happened during the 40-year study.
“If you ask them ‘What was it about?’ and ‘Why do you feel like it would impact your receiving the vaccine?’ they can’t even tell you,” she said.
Toler knows the details, but she said that history is a distraction from today’s effort to get people vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“It’s almost the opposite of Tuskegee,” she said. “Because they were being denied treatment. And this is like, we’re pushing people forward: Go and get this vaccine. We want everybody to be protected from covid.”
Questioning the Modern Uses of the Tuskegee Legacy
The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” was a government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded study that began in 1932. Some people believe that researchers injected the men with syphilis, but that’s not true. Rather, the scientists recruited 399 Black men from Alabama who already had the disease.
Researchers told the men they had come to Tuskegee to cure “bad blood,” but never told them they had syphilis. And, the government doctors never intended to cure the men. Even when an effective treatment for syphilis — penicillin — became widely available in the 1940s, the researchers withheld it from the infected men and continued the study for decades, determined to track the disease to its endpoint: autopsy.
By the time the study was exposed and shut down in 1972, 128 of the men involved had died from syphilis or related complications, and 40 of their wives and 19 children had become infected.
Given this horrific history, many scientists assumed Black people would want nothing to do with the medical establishment again, particularly clinical research. Over the next three decades, various books, articles and films repeated this assumption until it became gospel.
“That was a false assumption,” said Dr. Rueben Warren, director of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University in Alabama, and former associate director of minority health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1988 to 1997.
A few researchers began to question this assumption at a 1994 bioethics conference, where almost all the speakers seemed to accept it as a given. The doubters asked, what kind of scientific evidence is there to support the notion that Black people would refuse to participate in research because of Tuskegee?
When those researchers did a comprehensive search of the existing literature, they found nothing.
“It was apparently a ‘fact’ known more in the gut than in the head,” wrote lead doubter Dr. Ralph Katz, an epidemiologist at the New York University College of Dentistry.
So Katz formed a research team to look for this evidence. They completed a series of studies over the next 14 years, focused mainly on surveying thousands of people across seven cities, from Baltimore to San Antonio to Tuskegee.
The conclusions were definitive: While Black people were twice as “wary” of participating in research, compared with white people, they were equally willing to participate when asked. And there was no association between knowledge of Tuskegee and willingness to participate.
“The hesitancy is there, but the refusal is not. And that’s an important difference,” said Warren, who later joined Katz in editing a book about the research. “Hesitant, yes. But not refusal.”
Tuskegee was not the deal breaker everyone thought it was.
These results did not go over well within academic and government research circles, Warren said, as they “indicted and contradicted” the common belief that low minority enrollment in research was the result of Tuskegee.
“That was the excuse that they used,” Warren said. “If I don’t want to go to the extra energy, resources to include the population, I can simply say they were not interested. They refused.”
If you say Tuskegee, then you don’t have to acknowledge things like pharmacy deserts, things like poverty and unemployment,
Now researchers had to confront the shortcomings of their own recruitment methods. Many of them never invited Black people to participate in their studies in the first place. When they did, they often did not try very hard. For example, two studies of cardiovascular disease offered enrollment to more than 2,000 white people, compared with no more than 30 people from minority groups.
“We have a tendency to use Tuskegee as a scapegoat, for us, as researchers, not doing what we need to do to ensure that people are well educated about the benefits of participating in a clinical trial,” said B. Lee Green, vice president of diversity at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, who worked on the early research debunking the assumptions about Tuskegee’s legacy.
“There may be individuals in the community who absolutely remember Tuskegee, and we should not discount that,” he said. But hesitancy “is more related to individuals’ lived experiences, what people live each and every day.”
‘It’s What Happened to Me Yesterday’
Some of the same presumptions that were made about clinical research are resurfacing today around the coronavirus vaccine. A lot of hesitancy is being confused for refusal, Warren said. And so many of the entrenched structural barriers that limit access to the vaccine in Black communities are not sufficiently addressed.
Tuskegee is once again being used as a scapegoat, said Lincoln, the USC sociologist.
“If you say ‘Tuskegee,’ then you don’t have to acknowledge things like pharmacy deserts, things like poverty and unemployment,” she said. “You can just say, ‘That happened then … and there’s nothing we can do about it.’”
She said the contemporary failures of the health care system are more pressing and causing more mistrust than the events of the past.
“It’s what happened to me yesterday,” she said. “Not what happened in the ’50s or ’60s, when Tuskegee was actually active.”
The seniors she works with complain to her all the time about doctors dismissing their concerns or talking down to them, and nurses answering the hospital call buttons for their white roommates more often than for them.
As a prime example of the unequal treatment Black people receive, they point to the recent Facebook Live video of Dr. Susan Moore. When Moore, a geriatrician and family medicine physician from Indiana, got covid-19, she filmed herself from her hospital bed, an oxygen tube in her nose. She told the camera that she had to beg her physician to continue her course of remdesivir, the drug that speeds recovery from the disease.
“He said, ‘Ah, you don’t need it. You’re not even short of breath.’ I said ‘Yes, I am,’” Moore said into the camera. “I put forward and I maintain, if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that.”
Moore died two weeks later.
“She knew what kind of treatment she should be getting and she wasn’t getting it,” said Toler of L.A., contrasting Moore’s treatment with the care Trump received.
“We saw it up close and personal with the president, that he got the best of everything. They cured him in a couple of days, and our people are dying like flies.”
Toler and her neighbors said that the same inequity is playing out with the vaccine. Three months into the vaccine rollout, Black people made up about 3% of Californians who had received the vaccination, even though they account for 6.2% of the state’s covid deaths.
The first mass-vaccination sites set up in the Los Angeles area — at Dodger Stadium and at Disneyland — are difficult to get to from Black neighborhoods without a car. And you practically needed a computer science degree to get an early dose, as snagging an online appointment required navigating a confusing interface or constantly refreshing the portal.
It’s stories like these, of unequal treatment and barriers to care, that stoke mistrust, Lincoln said. “And the word travels fast when people have negative experiences. They share it.”
To address this mistrust will require a paradigm shift, said Warren of Tuskegee University. If you want Black people to trust doctors and trust the vaccine, don’t blame them for their distrust, he said. The obligation is on health institutions to first show they are trustworthy: to listen, take responsibility, show accountability and stop making excuses. That, he added, means providing information about the vaccine without being paternalistic and making the vaccine easy to access in Black communities.
“Prove yourself trustworthy and trust will follow,” he said.
This story is from a partnership that includes NPR, KQED and KHN.