+

Orlando Madison believes in second chances.

But for him, a 50 year-old Arkansas native, his second chance has been a long time coming.

In 2003, after serving a six-and-a-half year sentence for a drug felony charge, Orlando returned to his hometown of Benton, Arkansas, determined to make some big changes.


“I admit that what I did was wrong — I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” he says “But once I got home — right is right.”

He soon learned, though, that the road to re-entry would be a bumpy one.

There are a number of challenges that formerly incarcerated individuals can face when they return home from prison.

Many deal with the stigma of having served time. Some are still struggling with addiction or mental illness, which they may have had before they went to prison. And others, like Orlando, live in states that — up until recently — held public policy restrictions that limited the kind of help a person with a drug felony charge could receive.

Arkansas was one of those states.

[rebelmouse-image 19533727 dam="1" original_size="1024x768" caption="Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock. Photo via jglazer75/Wikimedia." expand=1]Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock. Photo via jglazer75/Wikimedia.

At the time of Orlando’s release, the Arkansas state legislature observed a ban from President Clinton’s 1996 overhaul to the welfare program, known as PRWORA, or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. In this ban, directly related to the “war on drugs,” PRWORA imposed a denial of federal benefits to people convicted in state or federal courts of felony drug offenses. This meant that individuals like Orlando who were otherwise eligible for federal benefits like The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (colloquially known as food stamps) were instead denied for life.

“You couldn’t vote again, you couldn’t get food stamps,” remembers Orlando of that time.

The difficulty of that time took a toll on his personal life too. “My son’s mother, we split up,” he says.

Making matters worse, Orlando was unable to work due to a disability.

So to make ends meet, he sought out help from local community centers, food banks, and outreach programs. But he still lived with food insecurity, just like 41.2 million Americans do every day.

Most of the time, he says, his fridge would be completely empty.

[rebelmouse-image 19533728 dam="1" original_size="399x158" caption="Photo via the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance." expand=1]Photo via the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

Orlando managed to survive for years without a safety net. But when he saw the opportunity for a second chance, he jumped on it.

In the years he spent at local food banks, Orlando would frequently run into Lynn Sudderth, a food stamp outreach field manager from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

This organization works on the local level to advocate for people struggling with food insecurity, by organizing food banks and helping those eligible to sign up for food stamp benefits.

One day while Lynn was running an outreach session at a community center, Orlando expressed to Lynn his frustrations with the ban. He wanted to do anything he could to help, even offering to tell his story to anyone who could be influential in helping to lift it.

“Every time I saw him, he asked if it had changed, and we would sit and chat,” says Lynn. “I told him at one point that I was hopeful, and if the ban was lifted, I would personally come down to take his application.”

On August 1, 2017 — 15 years after his release —the state of Arkansas voted to lift the ban entirely.

Finally, it was possible for Orlando to access the benefits he needed to get back on his feet and stop living with food insecurity.

Lynn and Orlando filling out SNAP paperwork. Photo via Lynn Sudderth.

“The week we were able to start taking applications, I surprised Orlando at the Care Center breakfast and signed him up," says Lynn.

"We had to take a picture to celebrate."

So far, Orlando says it’s had a big impact on his life.

As for groceries, Orlando receives a monthly benefit of $130, which he uses to buy packages of chicken and ground beef to cook full meals. “It feels real good to put food in my fridge, I promise you that,” he says. “For people who can’t afford their food, to get warm food... it’s just a big blessing.”

And just this past April, he secured his own place to livefor the first time in a very long time.

“With the extra money ... to pay for groceries, I have more money to pay my bills — the basic bills like lights and gas. It’s a huge help” he says.

After seeing the positive change these benefits brought to his own life, Orlando has made it his mission to help others like him in the community through volunteering and outreach.

“I see people in a similar situation, and they need to get that help too,” he says.

He volunteers his time at a local Christian community center, traveling to food banks to help bring back healthy options for the center’s food pantry. He participates in the center’s cooking classes, and sees himself as a role model, especially for the younger generations struggling to “get to the next level.”

[rebelmouse-image 19533730 dam="1" original_size="960x638" caption="Courtesy of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. " expand=1]Courtesy of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

“We really need to grab the young ones and say ‘Look, I got you’,” he explains. “ I can talk to them, say, ‘look, it can happen. It can be done.’ Help find them a job. You just need a little help to get back on your feet.”

He believes there’s no shame in asking for a little help, and he’s hopeful others living with a former drug felony charge won’t have to struggle with food insecurity for as long as he did.

Orlando’s hope for the future also may not be far off.

Other states have recently taken similar measures to Arkansas, either modifying the ban or lifting it entirely. According to the most recent state options report, only seven states maintain the ban in full, and that number looks to be changing. A bill lifting the ban just cleared the Indiana Senate earlier this year.

Soon, second chances may not be nearly as hard to come by.

And Orlando couldn’t have set a better example for why second chances are so important. In reaching out to his community, inspiring others, and getting back on his own feet, Orlando makes a case for every American having greater access to healthy and sustaining food options — regardless of their past.

As for the future, Orlando is optimistic. “My son is 21 now, he’s doing great, and going to go to college. I see the good things now.”

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via YouTube

This article originally appeared on 02.15.22


These days, we could all use something to smile about, and few things do a better job at it than watching actor Christopher Walken dance.

A few years back, some genius at HuffPo Entertainment put together a clip featuring Walken dancing in 50 of his films, and it was taken down. But it re-emerged in 2014 and the world has been a better place for it.

Walken became famous as a serious actor after his breakout roles in "Annie Hall" (1977) and "The Deer Hunter" (1978) so people were pretty shocked in 1981 when he tap-danced in Steve Martin's "Pennies from Heaven."

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less