Monday, December 16, 2013

Entrepreneur's Sweet Tooth Mixes Business, Pleasure, Profits

by Maniko Barthelemy

When a sweet iconic staple like Hostess Brands, with an 82-year track record eats the bitter plate of bankruptcy, why would anyone open a pastry business, after the company’s fall? For a New Orleans woman the answer was easy. “You just have to start,” said Imani Ruffins.

Photo courtesy of Imani Ruffins for Ruffins' Faith Pastries, LLC
Ruffins owns Ruffins Faith Pastries LLC, an online dessert catering company she launched in February, using her top secret personal recipes. No boxed cakes are allowed in her kitchen. “I love cupcakes and at $3 each buying them became real expensive, so I started baking my own,” said Ruffins. Consistent orders for specialty cakes and muffins keep her phone ringing, creatively decorated apples also popular. “I was baking for my family, trying different things and then a friend of a friend asked me to bake and it kind of went around like word of mouth and my business grew fast,” said Ruffins.
Photo courtesy of Imani Ruffins for Ruffins' Faith Pastries, LLC
Cupcakes start at $30 for an order of 24. Candy-covered apples start at $30 for an order of 10. She’s undoubtedly in a highly competitive industry but worth may be worth the risk.  Just like busy consumers stretched for time, buy fresh, flavor-filled, fully cooked meats or meals from grocery stores, people want and will pay for homemade baked treats they don’t have time to make. Experts project sweet success for the baking and pastry business, predicting $310 billion boom by 2015.
Photo courtesy of Imani Ruffins for Ruffins' Faith Pastries, LLC
Part of the reality surprises Ruffins, who has a full-time job in criminal justice and is finishing her bachelor’s degree. “I had so much unexpected business I had to shift to weekends only,” said Ruffins. The other benefit of the positive numbers, may suppress noise from her critics.  “I was told, ‘I’ll never make it without formal training or school and people won’t want to spend money because pastries aren’t a high demand and I’m going to lose money before I make money’ ” said Ruffins.
Moving into 2014, Ruffins plans to take another chance, expand her brand, and send a message to her children. “I’m working with my brothers on a plan to start a food truck business in New Orleans and we really want to work together and get our children involved in the business,” said Ruffins.
For more information, log on to or e-mail Imani Ruffins at 

Leave a comment about this article and suggest other business owners you know have a great story to

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fashion Designers Send Powerful Message to Community

by Maniko Barthelemy

Bold, beautiful, and brave women in trendy fashions sashayed through the courtyard at Hotel Storyville in New Orleans, highlighting the importance of a non-profit organization committed to helping women find jobs.  “I’m all for a Dress for Success event because I support anything that helps women feel beautiful and encourages them to feel comfortable and confident,” said Daniela Zapata, owner of Full Blossom Chic,
Hotel Storyville and “The Little Black Dress” organization sponsored a “Garden Party Fashion Show” Nov. 24. to raise awareness and reemphasize the importance of Dress for Success. Dress for Success is an international non-profit organization that provides career counseling and professional attire to help women entering or re-entering the workforce.
In Louisiana, where nearly 150,000 people are reportedly unemployed, having help from organizations like Dress for Success is exactly why people like Tileda Dunn, didn’t think twice about volunteering as a model. “I just went on an interview a few weeks ago and got the job,” said Dunn.
Dunn returned to the work force after spending five years as a stay-at-home mother. She was one of a dozen models showcasing unique and fabulous fashions by flagship retailers, independent designers, and boutiques reflective of the season, but Dunn was also a stunning symbol of victory over adversity. “I don’t think I would have gotten the job without the help of Dress for Success because I didn’t have the proper clothes and couldn’t even borrow clothes from my friends because none of them are my size so I wouldn’t have been confident when I went on that interview,” said Dunn.

Through partnerships with other non-profits, candidates are referred to Dress for Success. “Most of our clients come to us with issues and are ready to go back to work and become independent,” said Midge Donald, executive director of the New Orleans chapter of “Dress for Success.”
In addition to raising awareness and highlighting success stories, organizers wanted to encourage more people to volunteer. Drew Douglas, a retired media professional was ready to sign up. “This was inspiring, positive and motivating,” said Douglas. He plans to volunteer as a resume writing consultant clients.
Since 1998, with the help of people like Douglas, hundreds of women like Dunn have walked through the doors of Dress for Success for help. Often, they leave with hope and a renewed sense of pride.
Nearly 50  people, a combination of residents and small business owners, attended the party with a purpose at Hotel Storyvile. For information on how to volunteer or donate your gently used suits to Dress for Success, you can attend the Dec. 5 party at Chico's, 5605 Magazine St., from noon until 5 p.m., call (504) 891-4337, or log on to
To find your local Dress for Success chapter, visit
What do you think about organizations like Dress for Success? We invite you to comment at You can remain anonymous.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Television Network Selects "I Thought It Was Forever"

“All sorts of things go through your mind and you start thinking about your husband doing things with men and then coming home and touching you,” says Joy, a woman featured in “I Thought It Was Forever.”
 Joy and six other people give a real life, candid and bold reality to an issue that is often trivialized or broad-brushed in traditional news stories or Hollywood films. What would someone really do, if they found out their spouse was secretly gay? “I Thought It Was Forever” answers that question and many more through the hearts, heartache and healing of everyone in the film.

“I told her three years into the marriage, I was gay and I needed to do something with those feelings,” says Marc. His marriage to his high school sweetheart unraveled, after 16 years and four children.
“I Thought It Was Forever” airs on the Soul of the South Television Network in select cities at 10:30 p.m., CT, 11:30 p.m., ET, Saturday, Nov. 16 and Sunday, Nov. 17. The network, based in Arkansas, launched in May and airs primarily in the South with a focus on diverse programming reflective of universal lifestyles.
Here is a list of Soul of the South Television Channels from New York to Louisiana, where you can see "I Thought It Was Forever;"
Alexandria, LA

KBCA-DT 41.3

Baton Rouge, LA

WLFT-DT 30.4

Chicago, IL

WOCK-LD – 13.5
Comcast – 390

Dallas, TX

KODF-LD – 26.2
KHPK-LD – 28.4
KATA-CD – 50.1
Charter – 93

Lafayette, LA

KXKW-LP – 32.1
KLWB-DT – 50.3

Little Rock, AR

KMYA-DT – 49.2
KKYK-CD – 30.1

New York, NY

WKOB-LD – 42.1

Philadelphia, PA

WTVE-DT – 51.2
Comcast – 288

Tallahassee-Thomasville, FL

WFXU-DT – 48.1

Dayton, OH

WRCX-LP – 40.1

Time Warner – 22

Please send the network a message regarding the film.
In October, “I Thought It Was Forever,” was nominated for best documentary at the Reel Independent Film Extravaganza in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, the film has been submitted to numerous film festivals for the 2014 festival cycle.
To find out more about “I Thought It Was Forever,” visit to view the trailer. You can see production stills and meet the crew and cast at
“I Thought It Was Forever” is a Southern Belle Productions film. The company prides itself on creative content about ordinary people facing extraordinary odds.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why Not Take the Easy Road to Success?
In today’s world, commonly referred to as the “microwave society,” posting outrageous cell phone videos on the Internet and being an emotionally toxic cast member on reality TV are often seen as the get-famous-quick doors of opportunity you should use to skyrocket your way to top of the entertainment ladder.

In the highly anticipated film “Baggage Claim” starring Paula Patton and a list of established and emerging on-screen talent, one cast member cuts through the glitz and glamour with a dose of reality for anyone in any profession, especially those anxiously seeking awards, accolades and access to the brutal blinding bright lights in Hollywood.
“The elevator to success is broken, take the stairs,” says Jenifer Lewis. The 56-year-old actress never shies away from being blunt and bold on-camera, as seen in her body of work in film, television and theater. She’s exceptionally comfortable in her various roles and characters but perhaps the most provocative line Lewis will ever deliver is the most recent, off-script but on-point, comment about advice for people looking to get into the entertainment business the fast way.
What do you think about Lewis’ comment? Please e-mail Maniko directly at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Independent Production Series Interviews "I Thought It Was Forever" Director

Indie Capitol's, Pamela Nash interviews film producer, Maniko Barthelemy.
(photo courtesy of Jeff Ray for Southern Belle Productions)
We invite you to go behind the scenes with director and producer Maniko Barthelemy in her most recent interview about the controversial film, "I Thought It Was Forever," The film gives a raw reality into what happens in a traditional marriage, when a spouse reveals a homosexual affair. Please share your comments directly on this page.

The film is an official selection, screening Monday, October 14, 7 p.m. at the West End Cinema as part of the 2013 Reel Independent Film Extravaganza in Washington, D.C.

You  may contact Maniko directly at

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sexual Secrets Heal and Hurt in Documentary

"How do you heal after something like that happens to you?" A reporter from a D.C. area television station joins the Q & A session following the July screening of "I Thought It Was Forever."
"I Thought It Was Forever" returns to D.C. on Bigger Screen 
It is a creative and compelling true story about love, marriage, happiness, forgiveness and adultery. In "I Thought It Was Forever," seven people boldly share the reality of a spouse having a secret gay life. "We were just being our heads against a marriage that wasn't going to work," says Lorraine, one of the women featured in the film. Audience members will cry, cheer, laugh and empathize as real people put a spotlight on the possibility of loving or loathing someone who promised to love, honor and cherish them until death. "I questioned everything and wondered how I could do this to the woman who was the most beautiful woman on the earth, except for my mother," says Marc, Lorraine's ex-husband.

Marc and Lorraine, both featured in "I Thought It Was Forever" answer questions at the July D.C. screening of "I Thought It Was Forever" at American University
 "I Thought It Was Forever" strips away misconceptions about homosexuality and same-sex affairs in traditional marriages. On the heels of a sold-out screening at American University, the film returns to the big screen in a much bigger way.  The Reel Independent Film Extravaganza in Washington, D.C. recently announced when it opens up its two-week run of controversial and compelling films, "I Thought It Was Forever" will premier Monday, October 14.

Here's a link to the film's trailer,
To check out the 2013 full schedule of Reel Independent Film Extravaganza, log on to
"I Thought It Was Forever" is a Southern Belle Productions film, produced and directed by Maniko Barthelemy. Feel free to "like" the company's Facebook page at
You can comment directly by e-mailing Maniko at

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"I Thought It Was Forever" Hits D.C. Big Screen

How does someone respond when a spouse comes out as gay? Why would you try to make that type of marriage work? Would you try to kill the person or yourself? Those questions and many more were answered as tears, laughter, anger and cheers filled the packed Wechsler Theater at American University, in Washington, D.C. July 20. "I Thought It Was Forever," a film about people who were married to someone secretly gay, hit the big screen. "It was very timely and hard to watch because that was my life," said a woman who did not want to be identified. 
Photo Courtesy of Lawrence Larry Dortch
The nearly one-hour documentary features seven people, two are gay and five are straight. At one point in their lives, they were all in traditional marriages. Through candid and tough on-camera testimonials, each person gives an emotional and at times, uplifting reality of life before, during and after a spouse secretly came out. "You never really get over it and for people to suggest by a certain time you should be able to cope, that's an insult," said Carolyn Lowengart. Lowengart was married more than 30 years, before she found out her first love was gay.

With the recent decision by the U.S Supreme Court that drastically changed the Defense of Marriage Act, many in the audience felt the film was the missing message that's often overshadowed by traditional news coverage of same-sex marriage. The court's decision means the federal government cannot discriminate against same-sex couples, when it comes to benefits in states where same-sex marriages are legal.
Marc Gravallese (holding microphone) responds to questions from the audience at the Washington, D.C. screening  (photo courtesy of Jeff Ray)
Not everyone believes the systemic recognition is the stop sign needed to prevent people from hiding their sexuality. "Until families and churches on a large scale accept gay people, this (secretly gay people entering into a traditional marriage) is going to keep happening," said Marc Gravallese, one of the men featured in the film. Gravallese was married 16 years and says he came out twice, before he and his now ex-wife agreed to divorce.

Photos courtesy of Lawrence Larry Dortch and Jeff Ray
We'll keep you posted on what's next for the film, as "I Thought It Was Forever" has been submitted to the Omaha Film Festival, the Portland Oregon's Women's Film Festival, the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival, and the True/False Film Festival. To view the trailer, log on to

"I Thought It Was Forever" is a Southern Belle Productions film. Maniko Barthelemy is the CEO of Southern Belle Productions.  You can e-mail her directly at 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thank you for purchasing tickets to the July 20, one night only screening in Washington, D.C. of "I Thought It Was Forever." Many of you are coming to the screening at American University from different states.

We want to ensure you navigate without headaches to the parking lot on campus closest to the Wechsler Theater. The theater is inside of the Mary Graydon Center, near the Butler Pavilion.

Please follow the directions below and contact Maniko Barthelemy at (240) 274-9713, if you have any questions.

DIRECTIONS to the Wechsler Theater at American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
  • ·        Once you reach the traffic circle on Massachusetts Avenue, NW near American University, the Katzen Arts Center will be on your right at the intersection of Ward Circle and Nebraska Avenue, NW.
  • ·        Veer to the right like you are going to the Katzen Arts Center and be prepared to make a quick left turn at the traffic light, directly in front the Katzen Center’s parking garage.
  • ·        Once you turn left, you should pass a bus stop on your right.
  • ·        At the first stop sign, you will be facing the Butler Pavilion and underpass.
  • ·        At the third stop sign, turn right, into the Butler Pavilion parking garage.
  • ·        Park on the 3rd level on the right side where you’ll see a sign for the campus book store.
  • ·        Someone will be standing at the entrance door waiting to escort you to the Wechsler Theater, once you park. 
  •     Parking is free.

·         If you get lost on campus, call Maniko Barthelemy at (240) 274-9713. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Secret Homosexuality, Adultery and Marriages all Unravel

"I Thought It Was Forever" Screens in Washington, D.C.
What would you do if you found out your spouse was secretly gay? With the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, many people may think there is no reason for anyone to conceal their sexual attraction. But research shows, nearly two million marriages are struggling because of a painful secret that eventually interrupts the plans to live happily together forever. 

In "I Thought It Was Forever" seven diverse people give a powerful and  passionate real answer to the uncomfortable and unnerving question. The film puts a microscope on misconceptions and stereotypes that often flash through traditional news stories and peels away at every emotion most people would be too afraid to honestly share on-camera. Thoughts of suicide, depression, compromising, counseling, and forgiveness are just some of the ways healing gradually wrapped around everyone in the film. 

The documentary, directed by Maniko Barthelemy, screens at American University, Saturday, July 20 at the Wechsler Theater and is nearly sold out. 

To view the trailer, log on to Please comment on the trailer.

For ticket information, log on to

You can e-mail Maniko Barthelemy at 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Secret Sex, Adultery and Undercover Homosexuality all unravel in "I Thought It Was Forever"
How many gay people do you know are living in a traditional marriage and secretly having an affair with another gay person? Reportedly nearly two million people across the U.S. are concealing their sexual identity. You can likely recall at least one politician or actor coming out in a traditional marriage, after living in the closet for years.

Go beyond the same-sex marriage, adultery and divorce scandals sensationalized for "reality TV" and see how everyday people really react to a spouse coming out. In "I Thought It Was Forever," seven diverse people, start out as most people do, dreaming of being loved, honored and cherished authentically. But when the fairy tale ends, real life comes crashing down, forcing them to answer an unnerving question. Do you remain married and keep up a facade or do you come to grips with the best way to end what you couldn't predict? 

Randy, Sue, Melissa, Joy, Carolyn, Lorraine and Marc are not fantasy characters, celebrities or politicians. They share stories that are more moving than fiction. This candid film delves into what happens when love can't conquer all with an emphasis on the extraordinary resilience it takes to accept dreams don’t have to come true.

“Sometimes you just don’t love somebody forever.”                             Melissa

Here's a link to the trailer,

The film screens July 20 at American University's Wechsler Theater. Here is the link to the trailer and ticket information,

"I Thought It Was Forever" is a Southern Belle Productions film. Maniko Barthelemy is the executive producer and company CEO.

Feel free to e-mail Maniko Barthelemy directly at

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Film Salutes Greatest Generation

 Freethink Media's First Feature Hits Big Screen Honoring Veterans
Photo courtesy of Freethink Media. Joe Demler, 84, holds a photo of himself as “The Human Skeleton” taken shortly after his liberation from a German POW camp in 1945.
The sound of a bomb is unforgettable. Spending any time as a prisoner of war and coming home in one piece, defies statistics. Losing a limb, seeing a friend die or maimed on the battlefield leaves emotional scars and images beyond the average person’s comprehension. War is hell. Whether you’re a veteran or the spouse of a veteran who has survived or served in any war, you know how quickly the oath and promise to serve evolves to a matter of life and death.

Photo courtesy of Visual Image Photography. Julian Plaster, 89, stands in deep thought at the main attraction of his Honor Flight trip, the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.
In “Honor Flight,” an engaging and compelling documentary, Joe Demler, Harvey Kurz, Julian Plaster, and Orville Lemke four of the nearly one million World War II living veterans pull viewers into their personal, emotional and healing journey from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. The flight and experience offer the men a once in a lifetime chance to see the memorial that stands as a national salute to veterans, commonly referred to as the Greatest Generation. “This is a film about a community coming together to see a memorial but more like a meditation on freedom,” says executive producer, Kmele Foster.

The documentary is the result of a chance encounter in 2009, when Dan Hayes, the film’s director, visited the WWII memorial. Hayes took a camera and started asking questions. The answer from one veteran was piercing.  “I asked about his day and he said, ‘I could die a happy man, now that I’ve made this trip,’ ” says Hayes.
 Hayes followed and interviewed the veteran the rest of the day. Made a short video, posted it online and you can guess what happened next. Emails and phone calls from people and non-profits quickly moved the five-minute impromptu short documentary to more than 250 hours of footage. “We’re surprised at how personally people seem to connect. Every time we screen the film people come up and see their family, relatives in our characters and are inspired to follow-up with their own project,” says Hayes.

Photo courtesy of Freethink Media. A military official presides over a traditional military funeral for a World War II veteran. As part of the ceremony, the American flag is removed from the casket, folded and delivered to the deceased veteran’s family.
At the core of the film, you find out why the men were so eager to join and fight in the war. You see the stark difference in their return home, compared to today’s veterans, and you feel the raw pride that still overwhelms each man, as he realizes the time has finally come to publicly say I served, I survived and I still stand tall. Statistics give you the knowledge of the film’s urgency and relevance. Reportedly, WWII veterans are dying at a rate of 600 per day. During the war, from 1939 to 1945, nearly 60 million people lost their lives.

Photo Courtesy of Freethink Media. Orville Lemke, a World War II veteran battling terminal cancer, is greeted by a young boy at a surprise parade toward the end of his Honor Flight trip.
“Honor Flight” is one of several important films featuring stories about veterans, the challenges and reality military life before the current generation was likely born and is often overshadowed by current conflict. To see the “Honor Flight” trailer and leave a comment, visit The film will also be released on VOD via Snagfilms on Tuesday, May 14th. The film is a debut of sorts for Freethink Media, as it's the production company's first feature length film.

“Honor Flight” joins an impressive line-up of films that will screen throughout Sunday at the sixth annual GI Film Festival in the Washington, D.C. area. “We are thrilled with all of the incredible success of the film,” says Foster. For a list of films, visit
Share your stories of military service. How do you feel about the way America thanks its veterans? You can e-mail Maniko Barthelemy directly at or leave your comment on this page.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Big Easy Music Melting Pot Hits D.C.

by Maniko Barthelemy

When an artist gives you a show, you politely clap your hands and smile but when an artist gives you an experience, you leap out of your seat, almost hypnotically, think you can sing, and let the music take control. “This is a lot like our own music and it just stirs something in me,” said Washington, D.C. native, Alia Champman. Chapman and nearly 500 people in the Howard Theatre got a taste of New Orleans music and Chicago rhythmic melodies, Feb. 7, at the kick-off of the NOLA Funk Tour. The four-day tour spanned from D.C. to NYC. “We came to party,” said Walter “Whoadie” Ramsey, trumpeter and lead singer of the Stooges Brass Band. The band, along with New Orleans’ Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers, songstress Nayo Jones and Chicago’s Main Squeeze made four short hours of good music and entertainment feel like four minutes.
The moment the curtains went up and Ruffins walked out, he didn’t have to speak because almost instinctively, the crowd knew to move to the stage, whistle, scream his name and dance. “This is the first time I’ve been able to catch him up here,” said Jo Ann Smith. Ruffins’ signature relaxed look, raspy voice, and unmistakable talent with his trumpet and lyrics, served the D.C. area a plate of southern hospitality they’d never forget. “I saw him 12 years ago, he rocked the house and he was just getting known back then and now he’s become the man,” said Ed Lockett. Ruffins, opened the set with “When It’s Sleepy Time,” a tune reminiscent of a little bit of traditional jazz but just funky enough to spark your anticipation for the next song. Though to many in the crowd, Ruffins was the main event, he opened the stage to Nayo Jones, a neo-soul singer with a bold, seductress persona onstage that matches her flow from the microphone. Jones, who was excited to be part of the tour, held the crowd’s attention with her remix of “At Last,” the Etta James classic and “Killing Me Softly,” by Roberta Flack. “Kermit heard me sing and said “I’m going to put you to work,’” and here we are a year-and-a-half later and I’m on tour,” said Jones.
Ruffins and Jones performances, complete with the audience waving white napkins in the air, took the audience on a snap your fingers, swing-era side of the experience like a lovely streetcar ride through New Orleans. The Stooges Brass Band hit the stage with an electric force. Their up-tempo brass music, singing, and choreography hyped the crowd to the next level, as promised by tuba player, Clifton “Spug” Smith. “We’ve come to have fun and we’ll make sure they get off their feet,” said Smith. The Stooges kept the momentum going with a mix of New Orleans second-line music, original chants and skits wrapped around the continuous harmony from the tambourine, trombone, trumpet, drums, and tuba. “It’s amazing to me that they are able to keep that beat and rhythm and nobody’s playing a keyboard,” said Chapman, as she smiled and danced herself into exhaustion.
With all of the heat the New Orleans combo brought to the stage, you may wonder if there was room for The Main Squeeze.  The concert was the band’s D.C. debut.  Judging from the crowd’s reaction to their neo-soul style sound as the band hit the stage with their original song, “Love Yourself Somebody,” The Main Squeeze was a perfect fit. “It’s no better feeling you want than to know people want to have as much fun as you and that energizes you,” said Corey Frye, lead singer for The Main Squeeze.
For more information on where to see and hear any of the bands, visit their Web sites. To hear music by Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers, log on to Nayo Jones has a catalogue of her music and performances at The Stooges Brass Band has clips and comments, as well as music on their page at The Main Squeeze takes you on a virtual tour at
Have you ever seen any of the artists live? What was your impression?
Please e-mail your comments directly to Maniko Barthelemy at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The House I Live In Questions War on Drugs
How would you grade America’s war on drugs? Eugene Jarecki, in his provocative film, The House I Live In, humanizes the harshness of the epidemic and reality that almost seems unreal. “This is the primary most important human rights crisis facing America,” says Eugene Jarecki
John Legend, Danny Glover, and Brad Pitt are also executive producers of the film. Undoubtedly, the celebrity support brings a crowd, like the more than 1,000 people who packed Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, DC, Jan. 19. But the captivating content that oozes off-screen through the revelatory candor of the cast profoundly carries the message. “I loved it and it’s very inspirational, says Gary Woodward, a Shiloh Baptist Church member.
The film peels away misconceptions and emotionally fine-combs through facts that have defined the war on drugs for more than 50 years. It unfolds into an impromptu education on class, politics and race in America. How much is too much time for someone to spend in prison for selling drugs that weigh little more than a bag of chips? Where are the serious rehabilitation and drug treatment facilities in prisons across the country? Is society getting a return on its exploding investment in more prisons? “This film is very important because there are so many issues and this can easily get swept under the rug,” says Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
The House I Live In gives crass answers to questions about crime, punishment and fairness, through people like Maurice. He’s 28 years old and for selling 50 grams of crack, will spend at least 20 years in prison. The judge empathizes but has no choice because of mandatory prison sentencing guidelines. “You don’t know what’s it’s like to go to bed at night knowing you’ve done an injustice to someone,” says Judge Mark Bennet, from Sioux City, IA. Maurice, like so many behind bars, continues to hold out hope. “If anything is going to be done, it’s going to have to be done by people out there,” says Maurice.

The House I Live In is sure to draw ire from people who see relaxing mandatory sentencing as a sign of being soft on crime. When a federal judge, a narcotics officer and a convicted criminal all come to the same conclusion, perhaps it’s time to reexamine the stern approach to obtaining a dream of a drug-free America. “Everybody needs to do something and it’s not just the responsibility of one person,” says David Kuhn, an outreach officer working with the producers of The House I Live In.
Log on to to view the trailer and the film’s screening schedule.

We welcome your comments. E-mail Maniko Barthelemy directly at


Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Dark Side of the Military

The Invisible War: Oscar-Nominated Film Exposes Rape in the Military

Kori is still fighting for medical care to treat injuries suffered while raped in the military.
He hit her so hard in the face years ago, today, Kori’s jaw has not fully healed. Her diet amounts to little more than baby food and yogurt. Kori’s attacker was not a stranger or a scorned, angry lover. The man who beat and raped Kori was a superior officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. Lee, a U.S. Marine, says an outranking male officer put a loaded gun to her head and engaged the bolt before sexually assaulting her repeatedly. Hannah was ignored. “The entire time I was screaming and yelling for help, and for him to stop, nobody came to the door, nobody came to help me,” says Hannah, who was raped by a Naval Officer.
Hanah holds her father tightly. She was a virgin and was raped in the military.
Every branch of the military has a cleaver slogan and commercial selling a dream. For millions of recruits, taking the oath and becoming a veteran equals pride and potential to see the world in a way few ever experience. Sadly, thousands of young women and some men every year fall victim to rape, a sacrifice they never expected to make, entering an invisible war.
In the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Invisible War,” raw and revelatory testimony from rape victims exposes a cover-your-ass and punish-the-victim military injustice system with a history that dates back nearly 75 years. In this film, you will cry, hope and pray that something good happens for all of the people who spoke up and those who remain silent.
Director, Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering masterfully weave compelling interviews, U.S. government statistics, evidence of botched investigations and a crippling military chain of command that appears to serve and protect the guilty.
Your heart sinks when you see victims struggle to tell their horrific stories, testify, and file a class-action lawsuit, aiming for some level of justice and respect. Loss of rank, pay and in some cases medical benefits was the verdict for the victim. There is a chance that change is on the way, as a result of “The Invisible War” catching the attention of politicians and top military brass. For more information, log on to , where you will see the film’s trailer, the film’s 2013 screening schedule and links to ways you can take action.

What was your experience in the military? Were you ever sexually harassed or assaulted? What happened when you told someone? You can leave your comments on this page annonymously or directly e-mail Maniko Barthelemy at