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Helping Hands: Men's Health Care Awareness Month

March 29th, I received a phone call from Martin Mitchell inviting me to attend Laurel City Hall on April 20th, 2023, where he will formally announce his campaign to run for the City of Laurel Mayor position. I was beyond ecstatic to hear this wonderful news because we all can use a Martin Mitchell for each city in the county as a representative for everyday people and Mayor. Before officially meeting Martin in 2020 I observed him being present for Cannabis Freedoms and Black Lives Matter events in Prince George's County following George Floyd's murder. Intrigued by Martin's genuine demeanor and motivation I was happy to support him in his run for Council Seat. On November 2, 2021 Martin's dedicated community bootstrapping campaign awarded him the At-Large Council Position for the City of Laurel with 722 overall votes.

April 20th, 2023 (Honorary 420 Cannabis Holiday) Martin Mitchell along with many other supporters joined in his announcement on the steps of City Hall. I informed Martin at that time that a follow up article is happening. I feel it extremely important to share how amazing our Highly Melanated Men of African Descent are. Recognizing and observing these strengths are needed in our community to help encourage and bring hope that greatness is possible. June is Men's Health Awareness Month, Father's Day and Juneteenth. Acknowledging all aspects of your health care includes mental, emotional, physical and financial responsibilities. I had a sit down with Martin to get answers directly from him.

Here we are just over 2 years after you began campaigning for a seat on council. March 29, 2021.

LaWann: Can you tell me some or all of your accomplishments as At Large City Councilman of Laurel?

Martin: As a Laurel City Councilman, I have hosted four expungement clinics and know your rights workshops, which have helped more than two dozen Laurel residents clear their records. All of these clinics have been in partnership with Grace Life Center in Laurel, Public Defender Stanford Fraser, and True Wellness Medical Dispensary.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also hosted two different pop-up covid testing and vaccine clinics outside of the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Between the two walk-up clinics, about 175 residents were vaccinated.

Every October, On Halloween Weekend, I host a Martin for Laurel Trunk-or-Treat at my old apartment complex–Summerlyn Place. This October will be the third annual event. Finally, every December, on Christmas, I host a Martin for Laurel Christmas Toy Giveaway.

In 2021, we held the giveaway at Summerlyn Place but last year partnered with Toys for Tots with the Laurel Boys and Girls Club as it coincided with their annual breakfast with Santa.

I was very proud to win 2022 Legislator of the Year from Explore Maryland Cannabis. It was a long-time coming because the previous year I was also nominated for advocate of the year, but I lost to an outstanding cannabis advocate, Connor Sheffield.

Some folks call me Laurel’s Godfather of rent stabilization because I took initiative in championing the policy; I effectively organized not only my city, but also other Maryland cities and counties. The conversation is now statewide, and we recognize the action in several cities like Mount Rainier and Hyattsville. These cities bravely took legislative action to adopt some form of rent stabilization ordinance, while other localities deliberate on what tenant protections are possible from ever-increasing rent.

LaWann: What is driving you to run for Mayor of Laurel?

Martin: Laurel is the place I've called home for almost 30 years and as I've lived here I've seen Laurel experience changes from commercial and residential development to the people that make up the City of Laurel. I want to make sure that the City that I grew up in and that I'm raising my twin sons has a Chief Executive Officer that is inclusive, empathetic, and innovative in terms of what is next for the burgeoning City of Laurel. Finally, when we talk about the changes that Laurel has undergone, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the elected leadership of Laurel's local Municipal government. With that being said, I'm only the 6th Councilmember of Color in the city’s 153-Year History… Not only that, but we have also never had a Black Mayor in what is now a majority Black-and brown city. The moment for representation at all levels of government is important and has already come. I want Laurel to continue to move in the right direction and elect a Latino(a) folks to the city council in elections to come. #OurHomeTown

LaWann: How has the relationships between community members changed regarding accepting cannabis businesses and individuals openly using cannabis since you became Councilman?

Martin: I might be the only elected public servant in Maryland to openly partner with cannabis companies, cannabis non-profits, or related organizations. Before running for office, it was already important to me to engage cannabis businesses intentionally in the local community. We did this by setting up food drives, clothing drives, book bag giveaways, toy drives and directly giving it back to the Laurel Community. As a licensed medical patient and staunch advocate for cannabis legalization, it was great showing the cannabis businesses community and the community at-large that it's important for businesses to invest in the community that they operate in rather than they just make money and take it all home. There have been many folks, especially senior citizens, that ask me questions and with genuine interest in holistic alternatives as far as CBD, CBG, and THCa products go.

LaWann: With Adult use legalization coming July 1 what improvements will you advocate for the next general assembly?

Martin: Of course, I will continue to advocate for legalization that is contingent upon the freedom of Maryland prisoners held for nonviolent cannabis-related charges. I will also be trying to uplift cottage businesses licenses to further the small craft cannabis industry just as. I will push for expansion in home-growth. Something that is important to me is how we look at cannabis in the workforce; discrimination for cannabis usage is something that should be addressed. Specifically, there should be automatic expungements for individuals charged with cannabis possession, distribution, or possession with intention to distribute. Those are a few concerns, but there will be many issues that I will advocate for in developing this immature market.

LaWann: Can you tell me more about the Main Street Arts & Small Business Expansion?

Martin: Main Street is a goldmine that has yet to reach its full potential. The Main Street area now has 5 additional liquor licenses that were created this past legislative year that should be revenue and new businesses in Historic Laurel. Main Street has an Arts and Entertainment District on C Street. I would like to see murals there put on by local students and members of the local art community. We can have street banners designed by the Laurel Arts Council that are displayed year-round with different themes. One of the interesting new Laurel Main Street Businesses is a rooftop restaurant that is coming soon called SkyVibe. Attracting new businesses that add value to Main Street will be important.

LaWann: What methods will you use to convince small businesses to open in your city?

Martin: I would offer grant programs to new small businesses to come to laurel and open up shop. I would offer tax incentives for businesses that move to Laurel and operate for at least 5 years or more.

LaWann: What can the residents expect from you representing them as the First Black Mayor of Laurel?

Martin: Residents can expect that I will uplift the concerns of all residents because every voice matters. I will make sure that Laurel continues to welcome other cultures and that there is a space for everyone to flourish in the City of Laurel. Residents can expect that I will fight for them and for the best interest of Our Hometown. Residents can expect that we can continue to create our vision of #ANewLaurel that we started over two years ago.

LaWann: Was there any person in particular that paved a way for you at the very beginning that assisted you in becoming The Distinguished Cannabis & People Advocate, Organizer & Politician?

Martin: Mack Dawson. I met Mack years into my cannabis advocacy during the last campaign cycle. I wasn’t new to advocacy but when I met Mack I realized I had to move more tactfully and that I truly had something of value to professionally and humbly connect and educate the masses of the harms of prohibition, and the upsides for legalization of the plant.

LaWann: If so, may you elaborate in detail how that relationship, occurrence helped break barriers for your mental health, well-being and quality of life

Martin: The relationship is more than I can state in just a few words, but I will try. Mr. Dawson is a caring, thoughtful, and intuitive individual and I'm glad to call him a friend. Mack has helped me streamline activities and thought processes to cause me less stress in the long run. Very simple, but he has been reminding me to drink water, eat, and schedule relaxation because he always reiterates that I should be just as initial with my down time as I do when I'm working on something. He constantly reminds me that I'm a voice for the voiceless and that I have a duty to educate people on the benefits of cannabis and how it can help with opioid reduction.

Thinking back and realizing that I myself have been in positions to assist others along the way I contacted 2 friends for over 20 years to interview them about their current professional status.

First you will hear from my friend Charles Staples who is originally from Missouri now a Georgia resident, we met in the early 2000s.

LaWann: What do you do for a living?

Charles: I'm a video producer working for Turner Sports, we have a joint venture with the NBA and I produce content for, NBA TV and TNT

LaWann: How long have you been in this career?

Charles: I became interested in audio editing, mixing and producing around 1997, I started a work training program in my hometown of St. Louis where 3 selected youth were employed as interns at a real video production business that specialized in do in video in working with Catholic dioceses 2002, I've been working at NBA TV freelance since 2009, full time since 2012.

LaWann: What made you choose this career path?

Charles: I originally went to a trade school called Omega Studios in the DC metro area, after the 911 tragedy I returned to St. Louis and with my background in audio, began working with a video production company.

LaWann Can you elaborate on the journey it took to get here?

Charles: A lot of ups and downs, but staying persistent and being ready for the task was the biggest factor

LaWann: Can you speak about how your interaction with me assisted you in your career today?

Charles: When I lived in the DC metro area I came back from a holiday break with nowhere to live. LaWann Stribling at that time was a godsend, allowing me to stay with her so that I could continue going to Omega Studios. Without her help, I don't know how I would have completed my training.

LaWann: Do you feel it is important for Black Professionals to be in a position to change systemic flaws in hiring practices?

Charles: I definitely do, having diversity in rooms (from all races and sexes) where hiring decisions are made is key to continuing to reduce bias, stereotypes and discrimination.

LaWann: What encouraging words would you give to a young man that is currently in the same position you were in when we 1st met?

Charles S: My number one piece of advice is people will help you if you are trying to help yourself, put yourself in the best position to reach your goals and do all of the prerequisite work that you can so that you are prepared when opportunity presents itself.

LaWann: What ways do you practice self-care in your daily life with your responsibilities as a Man, Husband, Father and Professional?

Charles: I am physically active which reduces stress. I'm constantly aware of what I consume trying to get the best nutrition so that my day to say is feasible with my duties as a husband, father and employee first. For myself, staying active and playing basketball is probably what gives me the most personal enjoyment. Also, the fact that I love my job, working with the NBA and in video, which are two things that I love, it makes the job a lot easier.

LaWann: How do you manage your mental and physical health; do you attend regular doctor appointments? Have you ever gone to therapy before?harle

Charles: I go to the doctor regularly; I have been in therapy before.

LaWann: What are your thoughts on seeing a therapist or counselor?

Charles: I would highly recommend therapy for anyone who can afford it

LaWann: Can you tell me about a time when you faced a particularly difficult situation at work, and how you overcame it?

Charles: I was working on a feature that had a tight deadline for All-Star, my boss told me he didn't think I would make the deadline and I took that as a personal challenge. My feature made the deadline and aired on TNT for All-Star weekend.

LaWann: What does success in life mean to you?

Charles: Success in life means being able to provide for yourself, your family while balancing perspective, happiness and treating all walks of life with respect - the way you would like to be treated.

Next is Keon Swann, an individual I met while working in corporate. I recall the many applications he submitted and one day he came into the office to apply again and I told him no worries, I got him. Here is our interview.

LaWann: What do you do for a living?

Keon: Account Manager with Fortune 500 company

LaWann: How long have you been in this career?

Keon: Account Manager with Fortune 500 company

LaWann: What made you choose this career path?

Keon Swann: Interest in further expanding and growing my marketing and sales experience within the Financial Services industry.

LaWann: Can you elaborate on the journey it took to get here?

Keon: Most of my career prior to this position has been centered around marketing and sales within the automotive industry. I have had the privilege to learn from many exceptional managers and associates who contributed greatly to my professional development. I was given the opportunity to manage and lead a team of salespeople early in my career and have held multiple positions with several quality companies. A big part of my development involves me studying and learning how businesses operate and what it takes to consistently meet and exceed personal and organizational goals.

LaWann: Can you speak about how your interaction with me assisted you in your career today?

Keon: Early on in my career, I found out that you believed in my potential and helped me to secure a position. This initial support helped propel me into further opportunities within the company.

LaWann: Do you feel it is important for Black Professionals to be in a position to change systemic flaws in hiring practices?

Keon: I feel it is important for professionals of all backgrounds to encourage and support hiring and development of a diverse workforce. Black professionals indeed can play a role in changing some of the flaws in hiring practices. Having management and employees who reflect the diversity of their customers is very important.

LaWann: What encouraging words would you give to a young man that is currently in the same position you were in when we 1st met?

Keon: Never get complacent with your current position, be sure to consistently devote some of your free time to learning about the industry that most interests you, continue to sharpen your current skills and never stop acquiring new skills and knowledge.

LaWann: What ways do you practice self-care in your daily life with your responsibilities as a Man, Husband, Father and Professional?

Keon: I routinely engage in a meditation regime. At least 10-15 min a day, I routinely have a meditation session.

LaWann: How do you manage your mental and physical health; do you attend regular doctor appointments?

Keon: I exercise regularly and spend time in nature. At least 3-4 days of the week. I have annual physicals with my doctor and look to schedule appointment asap if something changes within my body.

LaWann: Have you ever gone to therapy before?

Keon: I vve never had a therapy session as an individual. I have with family before.

LaWann: What are your thoughts on seeing a therapist or counselor?

Keon: I strongly encourage it, and I feel like with technology therapy should be much more affordable and accessible than it was in the past.

LaWann: Can you tell me about a time when you faced a particularly difficult situation at work, and how you overcame it?

Keon: What comes to mind, is a recent experience I had as a Sales Manager at a high-volume car Dealership. One month we were having an extremely slow month, not very much foot traffic or appointments at all. I encouraged the sales staff to immediately go on social media, and post pictures/videos of the inside and outside of our most popular types of cars. Even helped a couple of them with the first few posts. After a couple weeks of routine posts, multiple salespeople were able to find many customers simply by tapping into their own network.

LaWann: What does success in life mean to you?

Keon: To be healthy, happy, and able to comfortably take care of myself and my family.

My hope is this article will encourage you to be mindful of your everyday, focus on your mental health and well-being and be a helping hand.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. It can involve paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, as well as your surroundings and the people around you.

Practicing mindfulness can have numerous benefits for your mental and physical health, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving focus and cognitive function, and promoting better sleep quality. Here are some ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine:

Start your day with a few minutes of mindful breathing or meditation to set a positive tone for the day.

  • Take breaks throughout the day to check in with your thoughts and emotions, and simply observe them without judgment.

  • Engage in mindful activities such as yoga, walking, or even cooking, by focusing on the sensations and experiences involved in each action.

  • Practice active listening and being fully present when engaging with others, whether it's in a work meeting or a conversation with a loved one.

  • Use mindfulness as a tool to manage stress and difficult emotions, by acknowledging and accepting them rather than trying to push them away or distract yourself from them.

Remember, mindfulness is a skill that takes practice and patience to develop, but the more you incorporate it into your daily life, the more benefits you will experience.

"Helping hands" is a phrase commonly used to describe people who offer assistance or support to others in need. It's often associated with volunteer work and philanthropy. Many people feel a sense of fulfillment and purpose when they are able to contribute to a cause or help someone in need. Studies have shown that volunteering can have positive effects on mental health and well-being.

You don't have to be an organization to offer support to your family, friends, neighbors and associates. Helping hands creates a sense of community and connectedness. When people come together to help others, they often form strong bonds and relationships that can last a lifetime. A Rainbow Coalition! "Helping hands" represents the power of individuals and communities to make a positive impact on the world around them. Whether it's through being in a position to hire or promote, volunteering, donating, or simply offering a kind word, there are many ways to be a helping hand to those in need.

For Men's Health Care Awareness, Father's Day and Juneteenth I challenge you to reevaluate yourself.

Are you prioritizing self-care for yourself? Are you being mindful and intentional for the quality of your life and family? Reflect on who you have helped along the way and how you can help others going forward.

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