Sharpton To Speak At Mississippi Blvd. Church

Rev. Al Sharpton will speak Sunday, Feb. 19, at both campuses of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

The activist, Baptist minister, and television and radio talk show host is speaking as part of Black History Month observances.

He will speak at 9 a.m. at the church’s Southwind campus, 8220 E. Shelby Drive and at 10:30 a.m. at the main campus, 70 N. Bellevue Blvd.

Belmont Chorale of Nashville will also be part of the events, which are free and open to the public.

– Bill Dries

Cohen Introduces Tax Preparer Fraud Bill

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis has introduced federal legislation that would allow the Internal Revenue Service to take steps to ensure paid tax preparers are trained and abide by high standards of integrity.

Cohen introduced the bill, called the Tax Return Preparer Accountability Act, as taxpayers, accountants and tax preparation firms approach the April deadline to file federal tax returns.

Cohen was a vocal critic of Mo’ Money Taxes, a Memphis-based tax preparation firm that was closed after complaints of fraud and an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Mo’ Money was banned by federal court order from preparing tax returns for others, and its owners were barred from ever owning or operating another tax preparation business. Three tax preparers at the company were indicted in 2015 on conspiracy charges for the fraud.

“I’m glad that the Department of Justice shut them down so they can’t prey on Memphians anymore,” Cohen said in a Thursday, Feb. 16, statement announcing the legislation. “But there could be other fly-by-night tax preparers just like them that trick hardworking Americans out of their refunds and rarely face any consequences.”

– Bill Dries

Thompson Proposes State Certificate of Employability

The first bill proposed in the Tennessee Legislature by Democratic state Rep. Dwayne Thompson of Cordova would create an alternative to the $450 expungement fee now required by state law to clear the record of those convicted of nonviolent felonies who have not been in trouble for five years after serving their sentences.

Thompson’s bill, which cleared a House subcommittee Tuesday in Nashville, would allow nonviolent felons who was qualify for the expungement process to be able to get a “certificate of employability” from the state that would permit them to apply for occupational licenses granted by the state.

“Legislation such as this helps nonviolent ex-felons to become productive citizens, reduces the chances of recidivism, reduces the high costs of incarceration and makes our communities a little safer from crime,” Thompson said in a written statement.

The Senate sponsor is Senate Democratic leader Lee Harris of Memphis.

A bill by Memphis Democrat Raumesh Akbari that also is pending would reduce the expungement fee to $180 – keeping the part of the fee that goes to district attorneys general in each county, whose offices conduct the background checks for those applying for expungement.

Thompson’s bill is on its way to the House Criminal Justice Committee.

– Bill Dries

West Cancer Center Awards Grants for Cancer Research

West Cancer Center has awarded four intramural grants for cancer research.

The grants, each valued at $50,000, were among the almost 20 proposals received by West Cancer Center for its annual grant awarding process.

This year’s proposals represent a cross-section of oncology today, with projects ranging from new therapies for treating ovarian cancer and radiotherapy technology to translating laboratory findings into more effective treatment protocol for aggressive cancer types, such as Triple-Negative Breast Cancer and Glioblastoma.

This year’s recipients and projects include:

• Dr. Matthew Ballo and Dr. Enrique Izaguirre, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center – for their project titled “Novel 3-D Printed Applicators for Advance Skin Cancer Brachytherapy.”

• Dr. Gustavo A. Miranda-Carboni, Division of Hematology/Oncology, UTHSC – for his research in the study of “Monoterpene Natural Products Against TNBC.”

• Dr. Lawrence M. Pfeffer, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UTHSC – for his research proposal titled “The Role of APELA in Glioblastoma.”

• Dr. Junming Yue, Department of Pathology, UTHSC – for his research testing MTF1 as a new drug target in treating ovarian cancer.

– Andy Meek

A Step Ahead Foundation Seeks Scholarship Applicants

The Step Ahead Scholarship program is accepting applications through April 1.

The fourth annual collaboration between A Step Ahead Foundation, Girls Inc. of Memphis and Tri-State Bank Memphis awards $100,000 in scholarships to girls and young women who plan to pursue post-secondary education.

“Being able to attend and complete college is so important to the women in our community,” said A Step Ahead CEO Claudia Haltom in a statement. “We want to empower all women to achieve their hopes and dreams.”

Scholarships of at least $2,000 from the $100,000 fund will be awarded to multiple young women.

Since the scholarship is a one-time award, recipients are encouraged to reapply each year as needed.

The program is open to all female Shelby County residents from 17 to 30 years of age who are planning on attending any accredited university, college or technical school.

Preference will be given to applicants who intend to use their education to help the community and who express a desire to lower rates of teen and unplanned pregnancy in the greater Memphis area.

“I fell in love with the organization, its story and mission,” said past scholarship recipient Jasmine Murphy, who became an intern at A Step Ahead Foundation. “One of my many goals in life was to be a first-generation graduate. The Step Ahead Scholarship helped me accomplish that goal.”

– Patrick Lantrip