Zupenda M. Davis is making strides in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy.
She was recently awarded the Red Ribbon Community Leader Award from the Community Advisory Board of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Center for AIDS Research. She was honored on Dec. 2, 2013 for her leadership in HIV/AIDS education and advocacy.
Davis has learned valuable lessons through her advocacy work.
“One of the lessons learned is that advocacy can take on various forms: policy, coalition building, community initiatives and research. When setting an agenda for advocacy, you have to let the needs of the target population set the agenda and establish the foundation to develop relevant strategies for action,” said Davis, who is an assistant professor and director of the bachelor of science of public health program at La Salle University. “In my experience, the most effective HIV prevention advocacy outcomes are a result of buy-in, multi-disciplinary collaboration and active participation from political stakeholders, community members.”
While growing up in Camden, N.J., Davis observed how poor socioeconomic conditions impacted the health status of a community. She initially set out to impact the community by addressing high rates of teen pregnancy. While studying public health with a focus on reproductive health, she learned about the prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS.
“Socio-economic issues, including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education, directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV,” Davis said. “African Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS so I wanted to be involved in increasing awareness of HIV prevention strategies, such as testing, engaging in safer sex behaviors and biomedical prevention.”
Davis focus on HIV prevention comes as there were almost 20,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia.
“When you’re looking at HIV rates in Black populations, it’s not that Black people are having more sex or more unprotected sex but there is a bigger concentration of HIV in the community and Blacks often tend to have sex with other Blacks,” she said. “If you are in a population in a community where there is a high incidence of HIV and you are only dating in that particular pool, then your risk for getting HIV is going to be increased, just by that statistic alone.”
Davis works with the Black Heterosexual Men’s Health Initiative which seeks to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections among Black men.
She noted that while much attention is being given to Black gay men and heterosexual Black women around HIV prevention, heterosexual men are often left out of the conversation.
Davis as serves as a board member for Haven Youth Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides health and social services for youth who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
At La Salle, Davis has the opportunity to work with others who specialize in HIV/AIDS research. She’s also working to raise HIV awareness among students, faculty and staff.
Prior to joining La Salle, Davis was a training specialist for the Pennsylvania/MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center at the Health Federation of Philadelphia. While at the Health Federation, she traveled to the XIX International AIDS Conference and was able to bring the latest prevention and treatment information back to Philadelphia in 2011.
She is a 1994 graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project L/EARN program. Project L/EARN is an intensive, 10-week summer internship for undergraduate college students who are from socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in graduate education. She credits the experience with her pursuit of an advanced degree in public health.
“It not only made me a stronger candidate for admission to my MPH program, it also prepared me for various research-oriented positions that I held and research projects in which I have participated. Today, I still use the skills I obtained from the internship. Project L/EARN opens many doors to opportunities for professional development, networking, and personal growth,” Davis said.
More than 60 African-American women packed a seminar to learn about pursuing careers in information technology.
The women were briefed about the Step IT Up America program during an informational seminar hosted by State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas at Beech Interplex in North Philadelphia. Step IT Up is an initiative launched by UST Global, a California-based information technology solutions and services company that seeks to train and employ 1,000 minority women in 10 of the nation’s largest cities. The long term goal is to create 5,000 new technology careers for minority women by 2020.
“One of the major areas of focus for the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] educational movement is to increase the representation of women and minorities in STEM disciplines,” said Jim Nanton, corporate learning officer, UST Global.
Nanton said Step IT Up is as a fast track way to prepare women for a growing industry.
“It’s a way to get young women and minorities onto a career pathway that is quite lucrative, that pays well and can transform their lives in a very short time frame as opposed to lengthy four-year and post graduate studies in other fields of STEM.”
The seminar featured presentations from UST Global officials who an overview of the Step IT Up initiative and answered questions about how the program works.
“The Step IT Up program is key for helping to get women of color into the information technology workforce. We’re really excited about this opportunity because in IT less than four percent of the workforce is made up of women,” said Andrea Thornton, UST Global communications program manager.
While wages vary from market to market, Thornton said the average wage for IT workers is $43,000.
The seminar drew women of varying ages and professional experiences.
Seminar attendee Alexandria Datts was hopeful that the Step IT Up training could build upon her skills as a computer illustrator. Datts, 24, studied illustration at the Moore College of Art.
“I think it’s truly empowering,” Datts said in reference to Step IT Up.
“All ages and backgrounds are here and we’re all on a common mission to try and find a resource to build on.”
For Venida Holbrook, being trained in IT would offer her the chance to pursue a second career. She worked in the federal government for 33 years and was planning to study IT when she heard about Step IT Up. For years, Holbrook has desired to work in the IT field.
“If I’m accepted it will be a dream come true. It’s a golden opportunity,” said Holbrook, who is a resident of the city’s Fern Rock section.
After the informational seminar, the women attended a hiring event held by UST Global at ITT Technical Institute, 105 S. 7th Street. During the hiring event, they participated in assessment testing, interviews and job readiness workshops. Once selected for the program, the women will be identified for one of three paid training tracks to pursue — quality assurance (QA) analysis, businesses analysis or software development.
Participants are slated to begin the 12-week training process later this month. After successfully completing the program, participants will be given salaried jobs within the company in line with the training they received.
Philadelphia is one of 10 cites that was selected by UST Global for the initiative. In January, UST Global hosted a Philadelphia launch event at University of Pennsylvania.
“Step IT Up needs to be in Pennsylvania and more importantly in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Thomas.
Thomas views the training initiative as something that women can leverage into future business opportunities.
“This is a good opportunity to bring a new strategy in how to start a business in technology or how to grow your technology business,” he said.
The initiative was first launched in Atlanta, Ga., with the inaugural class of 33 women beginning their training at Clark Atlanta University.
The Minority Business Round Table is calling for Senate and House leaders to pass legislation to create more contracting opportunities for America’s small businesses.
The MBRT is supporting legislation introduced by House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., that will help create a more even playing field for small contractors.
The Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act of 2014 will increase the federal government goal for small business contracting percentage from 23 percent to 25 percent, and the Contracting Data and Bundling Accountability Act of 2014 will bring more transparency to data reported on bundled and consolidated contracts.
“These two pieces of legislation will go a long way towards increasing opportunities for small companies who want to grow and create jobs by doing business with the federal government,” Graves said in a press statement. “By increasing the federal-wide goal for contracts to small businesses, and requiring greater accuracy, transparency and accountability in contract bundling and consolidation, we make it easier for small businesses to enter this marketplace and compete for contracts. The federal government spends nearly half a trillion dollars on contracted goods and services, therefore, we must ensure that the money is being spent efficiently, and small businesses have proven that they can do quality work cheaper and often faster.”
The federal government spends about $460 billion in contracting each year, with a goal of awarding 23 percent of prime contract dollars to small businesses. The proposed legislation raises the small business contracting goal from 23 to 25 percent. The two percent increase amounts to $10 billion in federal procurement. The legislation would also bring more transparency and accountability on data to identify bundling of larger federal contracts that reduce opportunities.
MBRT President and CEO Roger A. Campos said the organization commends Graves for introducing legislation that would help small, minority, veteran and women federal contractors win more opportunities and create jobs in local communities nationwide.
“The federal government should lead by example for local and state governments to focus on spending more with small and minority businesses,” Campos said.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the MBRT is a national nonprofit organization for CEO’s of the nation’s leading African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Native-American and other minority-owned businesses. The organization helps formulate effective public policies that impact minority-owned businesses.
Carol Cubbage Davis was an educator and dancer who founded The Progressive Center for Dance (PCD), a Philadelphia school that birthed an umbrella of other arts-related entities. Davis died on Friday, Feb. 21, at Samaritan Hospice Care in Mt. Holly, N.J., following a bout with breast cancer. She was 63.
Davis was born Feb. 17, 1951, to the late Harold E. and Margaret Dixon Cubbage.
In 1963, she was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. She became a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, where Davis and her family worshipped for many years.
She graduated from Overbrook High School and received her bachelor’s degree in special education from Cheyney University. She went on to earn a master’s equivalency in dance from Temple University.
Davis was a special education math teacher at the Father Paul Washington Alternative School for Youth, the Alcorn Elementary School and University City High School.
On Aug. 28, 1976, she married Alan M. Davis, a physical education teacher and School District of Philadelphia coach with whom she gave birth to two sons.
The Quakter City Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. initiated Davis into his chapter in 1990.
Davis developed a love for the art of dance at a young age, particularly ballet. She trained at the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts, and danced through school, college and into her professional life. Her hard work and talent led to being selected for the John Hines’ Dance Ensemble.
Family members said Davis believed dance built character and confidence, and fostered creativity. She wanted to open a dance school that would make dance accessible to all. With the Dance Theater of Harlem as her inspiration, Davis and her mother opened the South Philadelphia Dance Center in the firehouse on 10th and South Street in 1981. The school later moved to 6249 Market Street and was renamed The Progressive Center for Dance (PCD).
Davis and her staff taught dance to thousands of children and adults in the Philadelphia area. PCD’s enrollment in a given year sometimes approached 500 students, and its annual student performance became one of the Philadelphia dance community’s anticipated events.
At PCD, Davis was known for her high standards, candor and her enthusiasm for students. Her family said her students looked to her for counsel and comfort, and many credit her with having rescued them from despair by taking an interest in their lives.
In 1991, Davis founded Grace Theater of Philadelphia, Inc. in an effort to showcase the grace of African-American people.
“I want to show our inner selves,” she once said. “I don’t teach dance in the European sense. I say my ballet is ballet with an African-American flair.”
Grace is now the umbrella organization for Grace Dance Theater II, the Training Company of Grace, the Cherished Debutante Program and the PCD Children’s Dance Ensemble.
Davis received many commendations, resolutions and awards including the Whitney M. Young Service Award and the Mothers Making a Difference Award.
She inspired the design for the colorful steel medallions on SEPTA’S 63rd St. Station reflecting A “Community on the Move,” as well as many former students who have now opened their own dance arts schools and programs.
Davis developed the Praise Dance Team at Calvary St. Augustine Episcopal Church and choreographed pieces for the Journey to Freedom Program who performed her works in Cameroon, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Italy.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her sons Aaron O. Davis and Renaldo H. Davis; stepdaughter Kimberly L. Burrell; grandson Amir Tobias Davis and his mother, Na Keya Campbell; sisters Patricia Miller and Sharon Avent; nieces Maya Lynn Avent and Ebony-Lin Margaret Cubbage James; in-laws Patricia Davis-Price and Jessica L. Davis of Lynchburg, Va.; goddaughter Ryan Ali Bloodworth and other relatives and friends.
Services were held March 4 at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 150 E. 2nd Street, Burlington, N.J. Burial was in Mt. Lawn Cemetery, Sharon Hill.
Dolores Ellison was a longtime member of Woodcrest United of Christ.
She died on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2014. She was 84.
She was born on Dec. 5, 1929 to Rudolph McNeely and Rudolph McNeely in North Carolina. She was the oldest daughter of six children. Her parents owned a tailor shop and a variety store in North Philadelphia.
Ellison played the piano, sang in school and church choirs and worked in her parents’ stores, while attending school in the Philadelphia School system.
Ellison graduated from Germantown High School. She received a certificate of achievement for her “earnest and untiring efforts”, in making the Philadelphia Public School Musical Extravaganza “Youth Replies “I Can” at the Academy of Music an outstanding success.
Ellison valued the importance of getting an education and exploring the cultural arts and she instilled those values in her children. Raised during the civil rights era, she believed in justice and civil rights.
She worked as a settlement clerk for First Pennsylvania Bank for 20 years.
She had a strong interest in the medical field and kept abreast of all the latest medical research. Having had to cope with several major illnesses, Ellison believed in the importance of taking care of her health, developing good relationships with her doctors, keeping track of her medical history and asking good questions of her doctors. Her family said she believed that it was important to work well and in partnership with her medical team.
She met her husband James Ellison at a dance. Besides “cutting a rug” at social functions, the couple enjoyed taking road trips.
She was baptized at Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia where she sang in the choir and served as an usher. Ellison rededicated her Christian walk at White Rock Baptist Church when she lived in West Philadelphia. After moving to Mt. Airy, she became a 30-year member of Woodcrest United of Christ.
Her family said she cared about people and often did what she could to lift your spirits. At Woodcrest, she served on the Stewardship Choir, Hospitality and Shepherding ministries. All three ministries reach out to provide comfort, support and encouragement to members in their community through singing songs, offering food and fellowship and by praying for and contacting members as they go through life events.
Ellison was preceded in death by four siblings Dorothy, Rudolph, Ronald and Bernice.
She is survived by her sister Juanita; children Yvonne, James and Gerald, her aunt Louise; daughter-in-law Sonide; sister-in-law Esther; grandchildren Shawn, Steven and Courtney and other relatives and friends.
Services were held March 8 at Woodcrest UCC, 8107 Thouron Ave.