Essence McDowell

Essence McDowell

Essence McDowell is a freelance writer for GlossMagazineOnline and recent graduate of the Masters in Journalism program at DePaul University.

She can be contacted at

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Reaching All "Heights:" Actress Erica Hubbard

Published in Featured Articles
Tuesday, 04 January 2011 15:29

Erica Hubbard has starred in everything from Hollywood blockbusters like Save the Last Dance and Akeelah and the Bee, to notable sitcoms CSI: Miami and Everybody Hates Chris and Lincoln Heights. Yet even with all her successes as an actress, Hubbard credits her greatest accomplishments to youth empowerment. She has dedicated part of her life to inspiring underprivileged children around the nation.

Gays Gain Equality in U.S. Armed Forces

Published in News
Tuesday, 04 January 2011 14:59

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman appointed the President's Committee on Civil Rights to investigate the state of civil rights within the nation. Almost a year later, the committee released a report titled “To Secure These Rights,” in which they exposed the racial discrimination in the U.S. armed forces.


Say "Wyrd!" Meet Star Trak's J. Drew Sheard

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 03 September 2010 14:52

It's not weird music––It's Wyrd Music. J. Drew Sheard is determined to revive the music industry with a futuristic sound backed by his self-started company Wyrd Music Group.

Wyrd is a term derived in the Shakespearian era which Sheard has coined to describe both the unique vibe behind his music and the personal view of one’s destiny.

"The music industry is like a cycle and there's always one sound that everyone imitates. I'm making music that has the potential to be the new sound," said Sheard in an interview with GlossMagazineOnline (GMO). "I also want the youth to know that life is about their view of their own destiny, and whatever they want to do, they can make it happen."

Sheard's innovative vision has been backed by multi-platinum producer Pharrell Williams.

Earlier this year, Williams signed Sheard as a music producer under the label Star Trak Entertainment. Together the two are working on a mixtape that will introduce Sheard’s innovative style as an artist.


“It’s amazing to be able to sit under a phenomenal producer like Pharrell. I’m learning so much,” said Sheard. “It’s a great feeling to know that he was interested in me out of so many other producers out there.”

Despite his recent deal with the Star Trek, Sheard was already a star in his own right. At 14 years old, he was a Grammy-nominated producer for his work on his sister gospel singer Kierra “KiKi” Sheard's This is Me album. By the time he reached 15, Sheard had already been involved with three additional award-winning albums.

Growing up, Sheard's background was drenched in music. His mother is Karen Clark Sheard, singer with the acclaimed gospel group The Clark Sisters. Sheard began playing the drums at the church where his father was a pastor.

In his family, Sheard is the first to step outside gospel and crossover into the more secular genres of pop and R&B. Although he received strong family support, the transition wasn’t an easy one.

"Stepping outside of gospel was difficult challenge for me. But, in the long run, it definitely made me a stronger man,” says Sheard.

Even with all his accomplishments to date, Sheard is fueled by his strong faith, motivation and focus on the advancement of his music career.

"I still feel like I haven’t accomplished anything yet,” said Sheard modestly. “It’s all a blessing and I’m going to continue to work hard. I won’t stop, I will keeping going and going.

Along with his own music career, Sheard currently works as vice president and chief A&R under his family's record label KaRew Records. He also attends classes at Marygrove College where he is working to obtain a degree in business.

In the meantime, you can find Sheard in the studio crafting his own original sound and developing Wyrd Music Group. His aim is to become "one of the greatest producers of all times."

"I want to have an impact, and most of all, I want my music to do the talking,” said Sheard. “This is just the beginning."


Find out more about J. Drew on Twitter at and on Facebook.

BP Oil Spill

Published in News
Friday, 03 September 2010 14:26

Eighty-five days after the initial explosion abroad the Deepwater Horizon, BP capped what it has named the Maconda well that had been gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy

Published in News
Friday, 03 September 2010 13:59

Every nine-and-a-half minutes one American becomes infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), according to the Office of National AIDS Policy. The epidemic is having a devastating effect on the nation. 

Makeup chef. It’s two words that are possibly inconceivable until you see LaToya Ausley at work. She greets you with a warm smile when you walk into her pink deco Preppy Gyrl Boutique.

Op-Ed: Parental Advisory

Published in News
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 11:20

They were a select few were sitting in a room. They crowned themselves as gatekeepers of the nation’s past, and with one vote, history became their-story.


However, none of them were historians, scholars or academics. They were Republicans whose ideas of what should be taught in classrooms were based on biased partisan beliefs.

As a result, the relentless struggle between “left” and “right” has taken over what millions students in grades K-12 will be learning.

The Texas elected state board of education is comprised of 10 Republicans and five Democrats. They have made more than 100 amendments to the social studies, history and economics curriculum since January. The changes will reach deeply into Texas history classrooms, defining what textbooks must include and what teachers must cover.

The last vote in March won with 10 to 5 approval along party lines.  All the Republicans on the board voted for the “right-wing” modifications.

Because the Texas textbook market is so large, books assigned to the state's 4.7 million students often rocket to the top of the market, setting the textbook purchasing trend for districts around the nation.

The curriculum standards were originally proposed by a panel of teachers. However, politicians deeming themselves as “experts” made the final decisions.

Because of 10 Republicans, for the next 10 years students will be taught based on anti-liberal preferences. They have voted to remove current curriculum areas, including civil rights and global politics, replacing them with conservative historic figures and beliefs.

The voting members claimed that they were trying to correct what they see as a liberal bias among the teachers who proposed the curriculum.

One guideline requires publishers to include a section on “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

The curriculum demotes the role of Thomas Jefferson among the founding fathers, because board members' did not approve of his support for separation of church and state.

References to Ralph Nader and Ross Perot are to be removed, while Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate general, is to be listed as a role model for effective leadership, and the ideas in Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address are to be laid side by side with Abraham Lincoln’s speeches.

There is an amendment that deletes a requirement that sociology students, "explain how institutional racism is evident in American society."

Despite the state’s large Hispanic population, the inclusion of Latino figures as role models was denied. An opposed amendment would have integrated the fact that Tejanos Mexicanos died at the Alamo fighting for Texan independence alongside Davie Crockett and Jim Bowie.

According to the changes, “capitalism” is out as a name for the U.S. economic system. One of the members in the Republican majority claimed the term held “negative connotations.” Consequentially, the required term will now be "free enterprise system." This amendment emphasizes the free enterprise system over others as one of the most superior systems in the world.

It was suggested that the curriculum incorporate the study of the impact of cultural movements in art, music and literature such as Tin Pan Alley, the Beat Generation, rock ‘n’ roll, country-western music and hip-hop. The board majority tossed out hip-hop as offensive but made sure to accommodate country music.

As the list of amendments continues, it’s hard to believe that these are actually legitimate changes. Someone would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see the narrow-mindedness and political bigotry that these amendments represent.

What the Texas Board of Education has accomplished is building a nation of right-winged thought by squeezing out what they feel is “too liberal” to be taught.

It would have made more common sense if Texas decided to alter curriculums based on the consensus an equal amount of well-educated scientist, researchers, historians and scholars who just so happen to be democrats, republicans and even independents.

Those are people who can be trusted with decisions that will have such crucial consequences for the rest of the country for years to come.

Exclusion is not education. The manipulation of historical figures and events will only lead to increased bias.

Education is the process that has formative effects on the mind, character and ability of our youth.  As these conservatives have their way, they will have a negative impact on the knowledge skills and values of the upcoming generations.

It is not the job of politicians to decide what children will learn. It is the job of scholars and academicians to ensure that students are cultivated into open-minded, enlightened, critical thinking intellectuals.

Unfortunately, when this board has a final vote in May, the outcome will be brainwashed children groomed to fit partisan agendas.

The future of education seems incredibly bleak if Texas’ textbooks other state’s school districts invest in the same books Texas has crafted.

This is not exactly the time for the rest of the nations states to play “follow the leader.”

The fair and factual education of millions of children depends on the ability of parents and politicians around the nation to look past color lines. This time it’s not about black and white, it’s red and blue.

Until then, the textbooks in question should come with Parental Advisory Stickers.

Reader discretion advised. This textbook may contain strong bias. Some readers may find this content offensive that the opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the truth.

Don't forget to visit the Glossy Blog!  

Education Under Attack

Published in News
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 11:13

Educators around the nation stopped teaching to protest. The warning signs hit code red when National Teaching Day turned into National Day of Action to Defend Education.


The recession is so violently attacking education that teachers, faculty and staff set aside a day to protect it through protesting, striking, walking out of classes and staging sit-ins and teach-ins.

The demonstrations, marches and rallies were in dispute of the nationwide budget cuts, tuition hikes, compensation reductions, layoffs and privatizations affecting public K-12 schools and universities.

Some may question the uproar after the Obama Administration delegated $100 billion in federal stimulus money in 2009 toward education reform.

One hundred billion dollars does seem like an enormous helping hand. But when that money is split between 50 states and divided amongst tens of thousands of schools, what seems like a lot, in reality is not nearly enough.

States are slowly but surely depleting whatever portion of funds they were given. Consequently, the “stimulus” money was only a case of delaying the inevitable.

So the devastation continues.

According to Global Research, in April pink slips were sent out to 22,000 teachers in California, 17,000 in Illinois, and 15,000 in New York.

Major metropolitan areas are being hit hardest by teacher layoffs. The Chicago Sun Times reported due to state education funding woes have triggered a tsunami of pink slips. Chicago’s public school system intends to lay off 3,200 teachers and an additional 880 school employees. In nearby Elgin, Ill., which is the second largest school district in the state, 1,079 employees will see their positions terminated.

In the west of the nation, the number of pink slips swelled to 23,225, according to figures from the California Teachers Association, which represents 325,000 teachers.  A long list of cuts were recently approved by the San Francisco Board of Education for next fiscal year, as the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) tries to remedy a historic two-year, $113 million deficit.

The SFUSD, released information detailing that the cuts include four fewer days on the school calendar; layoff notices for hundreds of teachers; no summer school for most students; and cuts to physical education, the arts and counseling services, the district said.

The Virginia Daily Press reported that in Gloucester, Virginia, students will have 20 fewer days of class next year in a move unanimously approved by the Gloucester School Board in order to save an estimated $586,000 next year.

Cutting four weeks off the school calendar is definitely not the solution.

The nation’s children are paying the price for this recession—literally.

Meanwhile, no one seems to be saying the obvious. Education is what can be the true “bail-out” for this country.

Globalization and international trade requires countries and their economies to compete with each other. Countries that are economically successful will hold competitive and comparative strengths. There is no doubt that countries that are able to economically thrive have a higher percentage of better-trained and better-educated workers.

The education and training of a country’s workers are major factors in determining just how well the country’s economy will do. Therefore, as the teachers are disappearing, major learning programs are being cut and students are sitting at home instead of being taught in a classroom.

Researchers have known for decades that rising education levels positively influence a host of social factors: income, health, voting rates and even the likelihood that a person will stay out of prison.

Education matters not only on an economic scale, but also a social scale––apparently there is a visible and crucial significance. It’s not outlandish to suggest that educational standards and the chances of economic growth and development are deteriorating go hand-in-hand.

President Obama said last month: “The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens.”

Perhaps he was not paying attention on March 4, 2009, when National Teaching Day turned into National Day of Action to Defend Education. His advisors may have neglected to inform him of the thousands of teachers losing their jobs and the millions of children sitting at home playing instead of in school learning.

A few are calling for the Obama Administration to produce a larger stimulus package for pedagogy just as easily as he handed over trillions of dollars to Wall Street.

This may just be a brilliant idea. Just as some of the financial institutions have paid back their bailout money, the payback from an education bailout would be far more socially and economically beneficial for the entire nation––and possibly the world.

Don't forget to visit the Glossy Blog!

-Photo by GMO Photo Editor Billy Montgomery

Healthcare Reform and How It Affects You

Published in News
Sunday, 02 May 2010 10:03

Healthcare Reform has finally come to America. On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed a landmark health care overhaul into law. The legislation expands coverage to over 30 million Americans, brings down health care costs for families and small businesses and ends the problematic practices of insurance companies.