A Crisis of Undiagnosed Cancers Is Emerging in the Pandemic’s Second Year

by Duaa Eldeib, video by Alex Garcia,

A factory worker didn’t want to call in sick or catch COVID-19, so she tried to ignore the pain. Now she has stage 4 cancer.

Teresa Ruvalcaba lay on a bed in the emergency room of Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital, her right breast swollen to nearly twice the size of her left, the skin so thick and dimpled that the doctor examining her would note that it resembled an orange peel.

Ojalá que sólo sea una infección, she thought, as she struggled to catch her breath, not knowing she had a partially collapsed lung. I hope it’s just an infection.

For more than six months, the 48-year-old factory worker had tried to ignore the pain and inflammation in her chest. She was afraid of visiting a doctor during the pandemic, afraid of missing work, afraid of losing her job, her home, her ability to take care of her three children. She kept working until she couldn’t, until the pain forced her to ask her son to drive her to the hospital on this cold, cloudy night in January.

Seven miles away, 24-year-old Sergio waited in his cramped childhood bedroom, clothes scattered on the floor and his medical school entrance-exam books untouched on a shelf, his eyes locked on his phone. Sergio usually accompanied his mother anywhere she might need help with her limited English, but because of the pandemic, he hadn’t been allowed past hospital security. After two and a half hours of silence, he texted her in Spanish, “How’s it going?”

“My son they are doing all the checkups they are going to put me in a machine right now for the checkup,” she typed back, also in Spanish.

The page from the hospital caught oncologist Dr. Paramjeet “Pam” Khosla in her kitchen in the southwest suburbs, where she, her husband and their two adult daughters had lingered to talk after dinner. Although she had been in practice for more than 20 years, Khosla’s heart still jumped a little whenever the phone buzzed on the nights she was on call.

A chest X-ray showed a large mass in the chest of a woman complaining of pain in her breast, the emergency room doctor told her. Concerned, Khosla told him to order an immediate biopsy. They agreed she would see the patient as soon as she could.

Here we go again, she thought.

In the shadows of COVID-19, another crisis has emerged. With the pandemic in its second year and hope intermittently arriving along with vaccine vials, it’s as if a violent flood has begun to recede, exposing the wreckage left in its wake. Amid the damage is an untold number of cancers that went undiagnosed or untreated as patients postponed annual screenings, and as cancer clinics and hospitals suspended biopsies and chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Across the country, preventive cancer screenings plummeted by as much as 94% during the first four months of last year. At Mount Sinai, the number of mammograms dropped by 96% during that same period. By July, screenings had started to rebound, both nationally and at Mount Sinai, but still trailed pre-COVID-19 numbers. Fewer screenings led to a decline in new diagnoses, which one study found fell by more than 50% for some cancers last year. But people didn’t stop getting cancer; they stopped getting diagnosed.

As patients return to their doctors, the toll of those dark months is becoming visible. The National Cancer Institute has predicted almost 10,000 excess deathsover the next decade from breast and colorectal cancer alone because of pandemic-related delays in diagnosing and treating these two cancers, which often can be detected early through screening and account for about 1 in 6 cancer deaths. Like the pandemic itself, the impact is expected to hit communities of color particularly hard. Black Americans already die of all cancers combined at a higher rate than any other racial group. And cancer is the leading cause of deathamong Latinos, with breast cancer outranking other cancers for women.

After almost five hours at the hospital, Teresa left that night without a diagnosis but with instructions to call Khosla. Sergio picked her up outside the emergency room door. On the way home, they talked about all the tests she had undergone. Neither of them mentioned the word cancer.

Last summer, as her right breast began to swell, Teresa stuffed the left side of her bra with paper towels, embarrassed that someone at work might notice.

A solidly built woman with deep brown eyes and tattoos weaving up her neck and down her arms, Teresa had worked nearly half her life at the same candy manufacturing factory on Chicago’s West Side. She immigrated to the United States from Mexico almost on a whim at the age of 21, settled in Chicago, became a permanent resident, and got hired at “los dulces,” as she calls it. Over time, the factory’s owners changed — Kraft, Kellogg, Ferrara Candy — but Teresa remained. She eventually became a machine operator, earning $21 an hour.

The factory was more than a job to her. It was where she made friends, told jokes to pass the long hours, and blasted music, especially the upbeat cumbia songs of her teenage years, in the locker room. Her colleagues had a hard time keeping up with her energy, but they knew she would pick up the slack if someone on the line slowed down or cover for them if they were out, because Teresa never said no to work. The income allowed her to support her children on her own and, in 2008, accomplish something she had not thought possible: put $5,000 toward buying a century-old, Cape-Cod style home in a largely Latino Chicago neighborhood where the roar of airplanes from nearby Midway Airport regularly interrupted the quiet.

The tentative grasp on stability came at a price. She usually worked the overnight shift, often arriving early and staying late, then rushed home to get Aurora, Sergio and Roberto off to school. When they were young, the children enjoyed the lollipops and gummies she brought from work; it wasn’t until they were older that they noticed her bruised knees and bloodied fingers.

As the pandemic struck, Teresa didn’t slow down, even as it hit essential workers particularly hard. She had come close to losing her house in 2018 after falling behind on her mortgage payments. She couldn’t risk it happening again.

She worked overtime and filled in for co-workers who were sick with COVID-19. Between shifts, she picked up groceries for that night’s dinner, then collapsed on the living room couch for a few hours, only to wake up and do it all over again. She had created a plan to protect herself from the virus, wearing two masks and latex gloves on her hourlong commute on the train and bus. Even though her chest felt as if it was on fire, she kept working. She didn’t want to get COVID-19 at a doctor’s office or the emergency room, and she was so busy she didn’t have much time to think about her symptoms.

“I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it because I have to be both a mother and a father to my children,” she said.

Her tattoos mapped her life, its struggles and devotions. A lion for León, the city in Mexico where she grew up; a Chicago flag for her home since; her mother’s face to mark her death, a loss that still makes Teresa’s breath catch eight years later. When she faced losing her home, she pledged to memorialize Santa Muerte — Saint Death, a Mexican folk saint — in a tattoo if she could save it. Her prayers were answered when she was able to refinance her mortgage, and Teresa, resolute, had the saint inked on her neck. At an ornate altar in her dining room, she made offerings of flowers and apples and lit candles to Santa Muerte. As she felt herself getting sick, she prayed for her health, and for joy and protection for her family.

Finally, when her chest, raw and warm to the touch, hurt too much for her to work, she asked for time off and scheduled a virtual appointment at a nearby clinic in early January. The doctor, viewing her breast through a computer screen, thought Teresa had an infection and prescribed antibiotics.

The pills didn’t help. Still, less than a week later, Teresa sat on the worn living room couch, making plans to return to work the next day. Then, unable to tolerate the burning any longer, she wept. Her daughter, Aurora, hearing the sobs, came to check on her. Teresa agreed to let Sergio take her to the ER.

Credit: Alex Garcia, special to ProPublica

Sergio was in college before he learned there was a term for what he had been doing for as long as he could remember: language brokering.

When his family went to the neighborhood clinic, 6-year-old Sergio explained to the doctor that he and his siblings needed their school physicals. He negotiated a payment plan with the utility company when he was 9. And throughout his childhood, at parent-teacher conferences, he proudly translated his teachers’ comments: exemplary student, near-perfect attendance, excels at exams.

Those achievements eventually won him a full-tuition scholarship to Pomona College in California, making him the first in his family to leave home for college. Even there, his responsibilities followed him. He monitored his mother’s bank account on his phone, watching anxiously when the balance dipped near zero. When, during his junior year, the mortgage company filed for foreclosure on their home, his family emailed him the documents to translate, which he did, late at night, alone in his dorm room.

Sergio’s freshman year at college had nearly broken him. The classes were rigorous, the pace accelerated, and the lower his grades sank, the more he felt like an imposter. Worse, if he flunked out, he wouldn’t be able to get a good job, and he knew his family was counting on his support. His sister, Aurora, 26, has developmental delays and has not worked consistently although she has an associate’s degree in graphic arts. His 21-year-old brother, Roberto, dropped out of high school a few months shy of graduation with what the family believes is undiagnosed depression. His 2017 honor roll certificate still hangs on the refrigerator.

Sergio didn’t resent the pressure, but he felt engulfed by it. “Everything was relying on me to succeed, and I wasn’t succeeding,” he said. “It got to the point where I didn’t want to be the one solely responsible for improving the lives of my family. I wanted out of that responsibility.”

At points, he even contemplated suicide. But with the help of a therapist, he regained his footing and sense of purpose. He found work at a research lab focused on improving mental health in Latino and other marginalized communities, and he volunteered as a translator for Spanish-speaking patients at a local hospital. He began dating another pre-med student, Ayleen Hernandez, after he offered to help her study for biology and she accepted even though she already knew the material. And he discovered a way to understand his own experience. One day in class, when a professor discussed language brokering, Sergio was captivated. He ended up writing his undergraduate thesis on the topic, citing research showing that Latino communities often place the needs of the family above those of the individual.

In the acknowledgements, he addressed his mother: “The resilience and strength you’ve exhibited during our family’s most difficult and trying moments have not gone unnoticed,” he wrote. “I hope to one day ameliorate these stressors, so that you don’t have to anymore.”

After graduating in 2019 with a degree in cognitive science and a minor in Chicana/o-Latina/o studies, Sergio moved back home to work for a year and help with the bills before applying to medical school. Even though he had hoped to find a job in health care, he felt he needed to accept the first offer he got, confirming prices with suppliers for a company that sells industrial products online. He told himself it was only temporary and, in the interim, he would study for the MCAT and volunteer as a Spanish interpreter at a free clinic in Chicago.

Then came the pandemic, and after that, he noticed his mother getting tired and weak. He urged her to go to the doctor, and she kept promising she would as soon as she had a day off. He decided to stay home a little longer.

Credit: Alex Garcia, special to ProPublica

Pam Khosla knew the answer to the question before she asked it. Turning to the patient on the exam table, a 53-year-old Black woman in jeans and metallic blue boots, she said, “You missed your mammogram. What happened?”

“COVID,” the woman answered. 

Khosla, a white lab coat enveloping her slight frame, rolled closer in her chair. She pointed to an image of the patient’s right breast on the desktop computer screen. 

“See that starlike structure?” she asked, her voice gentle but assured. “It’s cancer.”

Khosla, the hospital’s chief of hematology oncology, had delivered a cancer diagnosis almost a dozen times that week. At 56, she was used to giving people bad news, offering them tissues and holding their hands as she did. But the fallout from the pandemic made her feel inadequate. Patients were showing up with more neglected bodies and more advanced cases of cancer than she usually saw, which, at Mount Sinai, was already more than many oncologists did.

Located in Chicago’s North Lawndale community, where almost half the residents earn less than $25,000 a year, Mount Sinai serves a population that is primarily Black and Latino and that relies on Medicaid, government-funded insurance for the poor. Patients here are more likely to visit an emergency room than a primary care doctor for non-urgent conditions, and they experience disproportionately high rates of hypertension, asthma, diabetes and cancer.

Khosla joined the hospital in 2005, persuaded by her husband, a doctor who had recently transferred to the cardiology department there, that at Mount Sinai she would be able to help some of Chicago’s poorest and sickest patients. For Khosla, who had earned her medical degree in India and carried memories of mothers and children camped out on hospital floors for hours, the sense of mission was appealing. At Rush University Medical Center, where she previously worked, patients had the time and the resources to seek her out for second or third opinions. At Mount Sinai, patients often had neither.

That only worsened during the pandemic.

Cancer care in the United States has never seen a disruption of this magnitude. Advances in prevention, increased early detection, improved treatment and new drugs fueled a 31% drop in cancer death rates from 1991 to 2018. But the pandemic has left many patients, particularly those from disadvantaged communities like those served by Mount Sinai, sicker and with fewer treatment options.

It may be another year or two before the cancer death toll begins to rise, in part because treatment can delay death for years after diagnosis, said Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute. Some cancers also may be slow-growing and are treatable despite a later diagnosis, but others are not. The aftermath of the pandemic may turn one public health crisis into many, endangering people’s lives and risking decades of progress in cancer research and care, Sharpless said.

“The longer the pandemic continues,” he said in an email, “the more significant the impact of the pandemic on cancer outcomes will be.”

Late last year, Khosla helped Mount Sinai launch a program to persuade reluctant patients to come in for cancer screenings by touting the hospital’s COVID-19 safety precautions on every outreach call. But as the oncology department’s eerie quiet began to give way to a rush of patients in January, she saw patients whose health had deteriorated so much they needed help breathing or swallowing.

Recently, she counted at least 10 cases of advanced cancer in one four-week period. She saw one patient with a grapefruit-sized mass on his neck. Another, whose tumor had pushed his brain dangerously close to the skull, was transferred to hospice. “He never got to see the light of treatment,” Khosla said. All of these patients had been afraid to seek treatment at the hospital during the pandemic.

While her family slept at night, she read medical journals, learning about the latest drug approvals and newest guidelines, and she sometimes sent herself texts in the early morning hours about a test to order or a treatment option to explore.

“Cancer doesn’t give you the satisfaction ever of having done a 100% job because the results lie in the future,” she said. “You’re always questioning yourself, especially with my patient population.”

Teresa’s case exemplified so much of what Khosla saw go wrong during the pandemic. The fear, the delays, the demands on essential workers, the limitations of telehealth.

Three days after Teresa’s emergency room visit, Khosla met her for a follow-up appointment. Teresa and Sergio had arrived early. He turned away before Khosla lifted the hospital gown. Shocked at the extent of the inflammation, Khosla quickly gathered herself, hoping Teresa hadn’t noticed her alarm. It had been a decade since she had seen such a severe case. The biopsies confirmed her suspicions: advanced inflammatory breast cancer.

“If she would have come six months earlier, it could have been just surgery, chemo and done,” Khosla said later. “Now she’s incurable.”

The Ruvalcaba family’s living room had long doubled as Teresa’s bedroom because she wanted to give each of her children their own room. But after her cancer diagnosis, she spent almost all her time there, sitting in the oversized chair her sons set up for her after her swollen breast made it too uncomfortable to sleep on the couch.

She passed the endless hours texting friends and watching old Spanish-language movies and cartoons, supporting the weight of her right breast with her left hand. She sat with her dogs — Bagel, a black pug, and a white poodle mix named Max — at her feet, rarely leaving the house except to walk them or go to her medical appointments.

Sergio, who is the only person in the family who can drive, took her to and from the hospital, having gotten permission from his supervisor to make up the time. The route sometimes took them past the factory, flooding Teresa with sorrow as she asked herself, “When am I going to be able to go back?”

Sergio and Teresa rarely spoke about anything beyond the day’s logistics during these trips, each determined to protect the other from their thoughts. One day in late February they were driving to a physical therapy appointment for her swollen hand, a side effect of the tumor. It was the first time Teresa had left the house after Roberto shaved off most of her hair, which had begun to fall out from the chemotherapy. She thought about her family, her job, her hair as she gazed at the overcast sky and, before Sergio could see, wiped away the tears.

“I don’t want him to feel equally sad,” she said later. “I don’t want him to take on my pain.”

Even with health insurance from her job, the medical bills, past due and seemingly insurmountable, kept coming. Some days she directed Aurora to toss them unopened in a Ziploc bag on the floor of the living room. She received disability payments following her cancer diagnosis and Sergio contributed what he could, but the money wasn’t enough to cover the family’s expenses. Delinquent utility bills alone topped $1,600.

Sergio was driving his mother home from another physical therapy appointment in February when traffic stopped for a train. Sergio, beginning to fall behind at work and thinking about all the unanswered emails and Slack messages waiting for him, bounced his knee and checked the time. Ever since that night at the ER, he had ricocheted from his mother’s medical appointments to his job, to the grocery store, to dinner duty, to filling Teresa’s prescriptions, to picking up the cake for Aurora’s birthday. He thought he might erupt.

“I try to be honest with myself and transparent and aware of my own capacities,” he said. “But I just started feeling the weight of everything at once.”

He waited until he had dropped his mother off at home, circled the block to find a parking space, shut the door to his room and signed off from work for the day. Then he looked up to make sure his door was closed and, to muffle the sound, cried into his sleeves.Credit: Alex Garcia, special to ProPublica

Khosla met with Teresa every three weeks, seeing her in between Teresa’s chemotherapy infusions down the hall at Mount Sinai.

At their mid-March appointment, the doctor turned around after washing her hands at the sink and was immediately struck by the dramatic change in Teresa’s appearance.

“The swelling is going down,” she said. An interpreter stood by to translate her words into Spanish, but Teresa understood these words on her own. 

“Sí. Mucho,” she responded.

The chemotherapy was working. Teresa’s breast had returned to almost its normal size. She felt lighter and, with the fluid in her lung drained, like she could breathe again. Before she left, she found the confidence to ask the doctor for help with transportation so she wouldn’t interrupt Sergio’s workday. She climbed into the cab, with the winter’s last snow falling around her, and for the first time in months, Teresa felt hopeful.

“[I will] be done with this and find a part-time job in the mornings, too,” she said later, “to get out of debt and help my children.”

That morning, as they sat in the exam room, Khosla knew the tumor in Teresa’s breast had responded well to treatment, but not for the reason Teresa wished.

The more aggressive a cancer — and inflammatory breast cancer is both aggressive and rare — the more quickly it tends to shrink. Chemotherapy attacks growing cells, and advanced tumors with rapidly growing cells, like Teresa’s, initially may be easier to target but ultimately harder to eliminate.

The oncologist told Teresa that her stage 4 cancer had metastasized, infiltrating her lymph nodes, sternum, skin, hip and rib. She would need to meet with a surgeon to discuss treatment options. But Khosla chose her words carefully. She wanted Teresa to stay strong enough to get through her treatment, and Khosla herself was an optimist who liked to look beyond published survival rates. She could sense that Teresa was focused on the improvement she could see and feel, and the doctor wrestled with how much more to say.

I want her to have some peace for a little bit, she decided.

She would wait until the next month’s appointment.

As Aurora pushed the cart through Cermak Fresh Market this busy Sunday afternoon in April, Sergio trailed a few steps behind, letting his sister lead the way.

When she confused the parsley and cilantro, he pointed out the signs above the dewy herbs. He didn’t intervene when she panicked next to the pasta, unsure of which sauce to get for the lasagna she planned to make.

“Try to figure it out,” he coaxed, nodding when she returned with the chunky marinara.

The outing would have been inconceivable a few months ago, given Aurora’s disability and severe anxiety around crowds. But Sergio was trying to help his siblings become more independent. He supervised Aurora as she made dinner, and he arranged to teach Roberto to drive. He was trying to prepare them to make their way without him by their side.

Sergio was making plans, again, to pick up the threads of his life. Ayleen, now a first-year student at Baylor College of Medicine, was waiting for him in Houston.

He didn’t regret his decision to stay in Chicago. Early on, he worried he would grow complacent and abandon his aspirations to become a doctor, but seeing COVID-19 ravage communities of color and witnessing his mother’s cancer strengthened his determination. He felt better prepared for medical school, even if the years at home had threatened to derail his plans.

Sergio tried not to think about the gap widening between him and Ayleen. He celebrated when she was accepted to multiple medical schools and profiled on the college website. And they still had date nights on the weekends, curling up in front of their laptops — him in Chicago, her in Houston — to eat pizza and watch “Superstore” together.

Some nights they fell asleep to the glow of the computer screens, and others they stayed up late talking about what would happen after Sergio got to Houston, whether he would end up leaving if he got accepted to medical school somewhere else or had to return to Chicago for his family. Life could go in a lot of directions from Houston, but he had to get there first.

In the kitchen, Sergio stood next to the refrigerator, watching Aurora and Roberto put away the groceries. Roberto held up the chicken patties. “What should I do?” 

“Keep them out,” Sergio responded. Aurora was going to bake them for that night’s dinner. 

Teresa watched from the back porch. “They are doing the things I once did for them,” she said. “The sacrifices I made are serving them now.”

She rested her hands across her chest, the pink blossoms of the apple tree behind her beginning to open, and listened to her children inside.

Eight days later, the family gathered in the living room, with Teresa in her chair, the TV playing in the background and the children scattered around her.

Teresa had left the doctor’s appointment with her head spinning. She had expected the oncologist would tell her she was getting better and could return to work. Instead, Khosla told her that, though she would do everything she could, Teresa likely would be on some form of treatment indefinitely. She had patients who had made it as long as six or seven years with this cancer, Khosla said, and she would still fight for a cure. Teresa didn’t ask any questions, just nodded her head and cried.Credit: Alex Garcia, special to ProPublica

Now, when Roberto asked her what had happened at the appointment, she didn’t answer. Then, as Sergio pressed, she began. 

“Right now I’m not going to work,” she said. “They are going to keep giving me chemo.”

She paused between sentences, sobbing as she struggled to get the words out. Afterward, she would say she almost couldn’t bear to put this burden on them, that she had wanted to shoulder the anguish alone. But they asked, so she told them about the surgery and radiation, pointing to her hip as she explained where the cancer had reached her bones.Counties at Highest Risk for COVID Harm Often Have Lowest Vaccination Rates

Sergio stood a few feet away, his feet planted in the doorway. “Yes,” he said reassuringly, whenever she disclosed another detail. 

She would know more once she met with the surgeon, she explained. 

“They’re going to be in touch about what can be done now,” she said, “They are trying to not let it spread.”

She finished speaking and looked at the floor.

In a gesture his brother and sister would repeat moments later, Sergio walked across the room and, without saying a word, wrapped his arms around his mother. He bowed down to kiss her head. Then he went to his room and closed the door.

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Gravity Inc. Announces Innovative New Electric Yellow Taxi Fleet

NEW YORK, May 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Gravity Inc., a sustainable mobility and electric vehicle infrastructure company, announced the debut of the first ever zero emission, fleet-based taxi service and dedicated distributed Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) charging infrastructure, which will pilot in New York City this Spring. 

Equipped with state-of-the-art technology including innovative fleet optimization algorithms, this fleet of Tesla Model Y BEV will be available via street hailing and on-demand booking, while maintaining current yellow cab pricing, providing a cutting edge in-cabin passenger experience, and ensuring equitable compensation to its drivers of its fleet. 

Innovating the institution of yellow taxis, Gravity Inc. has been and will continue to work in concert with regulators, city, state and state agencies/corporations, utility, real estate owners, and other interested parties. Gravity is an initial supporter of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) pilot to road test BEVs with immediate acceleration and remove HP limitations. 

Today, we are thrilled to see that the TLC unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a 1-year pilot program to test BEV Taxicabs, with an unlimited number of BEVs that can be placed on the road.  BEVs with lower than 4.4s acceleration, which include the Long-Range Tesla Model Y, amongst others, are eligible for inclusion.  This paves the way for us to complete all TLC licensing required for our launch and full participation in the pilot.   

“What Gravity is bringing to New York City is beyond electric vehicles; these will be the taxis of the future, and the charging spaces of the future,” said Gravity CEO, Moshe Cohen. “We’ve found a pragmatic approach to sustainable transportation that’s focused on health, safety, and the passenger experience. Gravity is proud to have spearheaded a business model that’s made for people and provides for the technology needs of the modern commuter and BEV owner.  NY Yellow Taxis are an opportunity to make significant innovations in BEV fleets and public charging infrastructure, all while creating fair and incentive compatible working conditions for drivers.”

Until the release of the Tesla Model Y, there was no BEV capable of serving the passenger comfortably with a large rear cabin, and with long enough range for fleets running multiple shifts in an urban city. Gravity’s technology and business model will transform the 100-year-old American brand of the yellow taxi, where charging spaces are also driver centers.

All vehicles in this largest of its kind fleet will be equipped with a fully licensed and approved array of technology, including 22″ interactive screens with a full suite of in-cabin media and applications, Wi-Fi, artificial intelligence which monitors and corrects driver behavior, and night vision enabled 360° surround view cameras all which integrate with Tesla’s advanced vehicle safety technology.  

“By reimagining the legacy of the iconic yellow taxi, Gravity is bringing a new value to travel that the City needs,” said Gravity Advisor and Regulatory Counsel Matt Daus. “We wholeheartedly applaud the TLC and the commissioner for their forward-looking BEV pilot and look forward to being a big part of it.”

While the pilot was in development, Gravity went to the drawing board to rethink the design and deployment of BEV charging infrastructure. Scouring the city, borough by borough, block-by-block, working in concert with Con Edison, Gravity identified the different sites capable of installing next generation fast-charging infrastructure and equipment, while taking into account the complex requirements of layout, power limitations, average duration and time of day charging, and utility rates. 

Reimagining the BEV charging experience, Gravity has gone from thinking about stations to reimagining the BEV charging spaces to create an inviting uniform and predictable hands-free user experience. State-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure, tailored to the space and use case, are hidden within the designs at each site.  All gravity charging spaces are available to the public for 16-24 hours a day. 

The Gravity driver model creates a market where drivers always exceed current TLC regulated earnings, in addition to various other financial incentive opportunities, while still retaining the discretion to create their own schedule and independence to make other business decisions.

Following Gravity’s launch in New York City, it plans to bring its modernization capabilities to other, higher density cities. 

About Gravity

Formed in 2020 with a full suite of mobile technology, Gravity is the next generation BEV fleet and distributed energy infrastructure operator, with an in-cabin experience tailored to the needs of the modern traveler and the charging spaces of the future. In Spring 2021, Gravity laid the land as a pioneer in sustainability entering NY as a taxi operator making in-cabin technology and services available to all medallion owners and drivers.

FOX SOUL Expands Original Programming to Push the Culture Forward

The Unapologetically Black Streaming Service Adds a New Original Show to Their Weekly Schedule 

NEW YORK, May 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — FOX SOUL, the Black community’s premiere free streaming platform serving UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK, CONSUMABLE BY ALL entertainment 365 days a year, expands their programming slate, adding a new series to their current streaming schedule.

With over 44M viewers, FOX SOUL celebrates black culture and deals with real topics that impact the everyday lives of the black community through frank and insightful dialogue with local and national influencers. FOX SOUL provides a platform and programming that speaks directly to the community where they can be seen and heard yet enjoyed by everyone. 

“I’m extremely proud of the growth of FOX SOUL after launching a little over a year ago,” said Head of Programming James DuBose. “The partnerships with black talent and creators that we have been able to forge to date, speaks volumes to how the community is feeling about us here at FOX SOUL.” 

The streaming platform will carry original talk and informational series for its viewers, that aim to entertain, educate and inspire. These programs can be streamed anytime via YouTube, FOX SOUL app and website, Apple, Roku Samsung TV Plus, Tubi, Xumo, Fire TV Stick and more.

Below is a rundown of new and recurring series currently streaming on FOX SOUL:


  • Tami Roman premiered her new lifestyle show on April 20 at 6PM PST / 9PM EST. Get Into It With Tami RomanHer is geared towards today’s black women and features Tami’s unique twist on trending topics, raw, transparent and funny conversations with celebrity guests. Her highly popular Bonnet Chronicle POWER MINUTE and “Ask Tami” allows her to connect with her viewers and provide them with advice on relationships, sex, parenting and more. You can expect an unfiltered and entertaining show with some good tea! Tami’s unapologetic candor is not always popular, but it’s always real!


  • Every Wednesday at 7PM PST / 10PM EST, recording artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Jay “Jeezy” Jenkins, has always converted his artistic inspiration into real life conversations. This series is a conversation, not a talk show. Jay sits down with thinkers and doers of the culture. He engages in intimate dialogue with life lessons serving as the compass for this show’s soul. Worth A Conversation gives the audience an up close and personal viewpoint into the life and minds of some of the most iconic people to advance the culture. This is FOX SOUL’s version of My Next Guest with David Letterman led by Jay because of his ability to bridge the gap between the street corner and the corner office.


  • Every Monday at 6PM PST / 9PM EST, you will find Claudia Jordan, LisaRaye McCoy, Vivica A. Fox, and Syleena Johnson sip-and-serve the tea on the latest trends & topics in entertainment, news, and politics.


  • The nightly talk-series that airs Monday-Friday at 4PM PST/ 7PM EST features Brooke Thomas, Romeo, Demi Lobo and Melyssa Ford, who cover the latest news and topics in the African American community. Recent guests included nationally recognized trial lawyer Ben Crump, Civil Rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong(organizer out of Minneapolis), CK Hoffler – President of the National Bar Association, President of the NAACP Derrick Johnson, and Rep. Karen Bass sponsor of the George Floyd Policing Act, to name a few.


  • On Thursdays at 7PM PST / 10PM EST, the hour-long segment hosted by Vivica A. Fox will contain between one and four short films, each followed by an interview with the filmmaker by the episode’s celebrity host. This is the first of many opportunities to give Black creators a platform to share their visions and gifts with the world.


  • The popular entertainment podcast turned network show features media personality and host Jason Lee who discusses breaking news and tell-all interviews with entertainment’s biggest names. The show airs every Friday at 7PM PST / 10PM EST. 


  • Every Monday at 7PM PST / 10PM EST, DJ, comedian, actor and radio personality, Leon Rogers, brings his comedic approach to real time news. 


  • Dish Nation’s, Gary with Da Tea, Blogger, Funky Dineva and Al Reynolds are dishing the latest celebrity gossip every Friday at 6PM PST / 9PM EST. 


  • Monday-Friday at 5PM PST / 8PM EST, Dr. Sean McMillan celebrates black culture and deals with real topics that impact the everyday lives of the black community through frank and insightful dialogue with local and national influencers.


  • Every Tuesday at 7PM PST / 10PM EST, the new talk show features Black Gen-Z and millennial men and women leading the conversation to talk about today’s most relevant hot topics for this generation that’s especially engaged in current events. The show is produced by industry powerhouse Tameka ‘Tiny’ Harris and hosted by Zonnique (T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle)Romeo Miller (Ex On The Beach/Peak)Anton Peeples (Mr. Mom), newcomer Jamie DuBose, and Jazz Anderson (TV personality & rapper), with four-time Emmy-nominated producer, Jill King (Rachael Ray, The Real, Steve Harvey, Red Table Talk) as Executive Producer and Showrunner. 


  • NAACP award-winning writer, producer, actress and radio and television personality, Tammi Mac, interviews experts in politics, education, entertainment, and science to dig deeper into their journey and engage in spirited discussions every Monday- Friday at 8PM PST / 11PM EST. 

FOX SOUL is the Black community’s premiere free streaming platform serving UNAPOLOGETICALLY BLACK, CONSUMABLE BY ALL entertainment around the clock to 44+ million viewers. With over 1,300 hours of live and interactive programming annually, we are home to some of the most iconic faces and voices of our culture: Cocktails with Queens hosted by Claudia Jordan, the award-winning FOX SOUL’s Black Report, the black filmmaker showcase known as FOX SOUL’s Screening Room hosted by Vivica A. Fox, Get Into It with Tami Roman, Worth a Conversation with Jay “Jeezy” Jenkins, The Book of Sean hosted by Dr. Sean McMillan, and more. We share YOUR voice and YOUR Truth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information on FOX SOUL, visit us on YouTube and FOXSOUL.TV.

Serena Goes to Disney World

Tennis star Serena Williams recently visited Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on a family vacation, and enjoyed some time at Magic Kingdom Park (Matt Stroshane, Photographer).

Tennis star Serena Williams recently visited Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on a family vacation, and enjoyed some time at Magic Kingdom Park with her husband, Alexis Ohanian, and their daughter, Olympia (Cover photo by Matt Stroshane).

Tanitoluwa Adewumi has become a National Chess Master at the age of 10

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, the young New Yorker of Nigerian descent who came into national and international prominence about two years ago after he was discovered as a homeless chess genius, is now reportedly a United States National Chess Master.

The prodigy is still only 10-years-old and a fifth-grader. Adewumi’s new status was reported by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, one of Adewumi’s earliest media hype men. He also reiterated that the former Nigerian refugee still has a roof over his head as well.

According to the website of the body that oversees chess competitions in the US, the United States Chess Federation, the national master title is given “to any player who reaches a rating of 2200. Less than one percent of rated players hold the title. An Original Life Master is a National Master who has played 300 games with a rating [of] over 2200” points accrued from games.

The average age of a US National Chess Master has actually decreased over the decades even though Adewumi is thought to be one of a kind. For those born after 1990, the average US National Chess Master is around 19 years old. Adewumi was born in 2010.

There are growing expectations among those in the chess-playing community that Adewumi could be a Grandmaster (player with 2500 points) before he turns 21. Such has been the meteoric rise of the young boy since 2019.

In late 2019, it was reported that Paramount Pictures have secured the rights to the project around the boy whose family relocated from Nigeria to the States as refugees. Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, is set to produce the biopic.

A film project is not the only thing Adewumi and his family will have about their life. A three-part book is set to be released by W Publishing in 2020 about the travails of the family that had to escape the violence of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The film will be sourced from the books. However, on his part, Noah has yet to comment on his role as a producer through his company, Day Zero Productions.

Chauvin Is Guilty. Our Work Is Cut Out for Us.

By Ben Jealous 

Just a few days have passed since Derek Chauvin’s conviction in the murder of George Floyd. But the images from that moment are seared in our memories forever: the murderer, led away in handcuffs. The Floyd family, Philonise Floyd speaking through tears, at the microphones after the verdict. The crowds outside the courthouse erupting in cheers when the verdict was read.

Our gratitude for this measure of accountability is soul-deep. And now we ask ourselves, will things really be different this time? The answer is that they can be, if we seize this moment.

Washington has sent encouraging signs that it is serious about addressing police violence and systemic racism. Congress should pass the imperfect but important George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The Justice Department is forging ahead with investigations of police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville, and the shooting of Anthony Brown in North Carolina.

We have work to do in our own neighborhoods, too. 

Policing is a local function, controlled by city, county and state governments. These governments answer directly to us, the citizens. And there is a lot we can do to insist on change.

One of the most inspiring examples today is in Ithaca, New York, a college town led by a dynamic young Black mayor. There, Mayor Svante Myrick and the city council approved a plan to do away with their traditional police department and replace it with a new Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety, in which some personnel would carry weapons – and, importantly, some would not. 

Instead, unarmed social workers would respond to the many calls in which an armed response is unnecessary and even dangerous. The new department will have a civilian supervisor. It will focus on de-escalating situations in which people are at risk, and restoring trust among the city’s communities of color, homeless residents, LGBTQ residents and residents with disabilities. 

The plan came together with input from local residents as well as city and county officials. It is the kind of innovative thinking we want in communities across the nation, and the energy around the Chauvin trial helped get it over the finish line. 
We all can harness that energy where we live. Our year of speaking out and taking to the streets will serve us well; we can organize, and demonstrate, and show up in the places where local lawmakers meet to do their work. We can contact our local representatives directly; they might live next door or down the street.  

And while the task of changing thousands of police departments, one by one, seems huge, think of this: more than half of Black Americans live in 25 metropolitan areas. We can get serious about saving Black lives by starting in those metro areas. And we can build a movement that inspires others to act.  One of the most emotional moments after George Floyd’s murder last year came when his daughter Gianna, then six, said, “Daddy changed the world.” If we want her to be right in the long run, we can do our part to make her words come true. And each of us can start right here at home.  

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. Jealous has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.

The Black Wall Street Launches Digital Financial Revolution National Charitable Tour


HOLLYWOOD, Calif., May 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Marking the close of Financial Literacy Month, CEO of The Black Wall Street, Award-winning Actor, Author and former U.S. Presidential appointee, Hill Harper and business partner, Najah Roberts launched a 33-market charitable tour, The Black Wall Street (TBWS) “Digital Financial Revolution National Charitable Tour.” 

Hill is Honorary National Co-Chair of The Redevelopment of Black Wall Street. Harper & Roberts are positioned to build the world’s largest investment and financial literacy curriculum and toolkit expressly for Black communities across the diaspora.

The Black Wall Street’s mission is fourfold:

  • to address the racial wealth gap in the U.S.,
  • to introduce Black communities to The Black Wall Street App & DigitalWallet,
  • to be involved in the transfer of wealth with cryptocurrency and decentralized finance, and
  • to increase financial literacy, financial capacity, and adoption of digital currency.

The Black Wall Street Digital Financial Revolution National Charitable Tour will culminate with Centennial activities in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 31st and June 1, 2021.  The tour will visit 33 disenfranchised communities and introduce financial literacy, cryptocurrency, and tech-based strategies for financial empowerment.  Millions of Satoshis (fractile shares of Bitcoin) will be given. 

The tour is the first to launch a digital platform, focusing on Bitcoin education and adoption in Black and Brown communities.  Informational Pop-Up Rallies will be outdoors and follow all COVID-safety protocols. Public Rallies are organized, peaceful, and Free.  Children are Invited!

The Tour is led by Najah Roberts as Hill is currently in production on ABC’s hit drama series, The Good Doctor

The charitable tour also includes Crypto Kids Camp ( with a performance by 12-year old Navonne Love, performing his kids’ version of Roddy Ricch’s hit single High Fashion.  All are invited to bring rally signs.   

Visit and join the waitlist by signing up to be among the first to download The Black Wall Street App & DigitalWallet

About Najah Roberts | @NajahRoberts
Najah Roberts is a tech entrepreneur, Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, NFT expert, and community activist. She founded Crypto Blockchain Plug, the first Black-owned cryptocurrency exchange, and one of three brick and mortar digital cryptocurrency businesses in the U.S.

In-kind sponsors: R.H. Boyd Publishing in Nashville, Tennessee, the Black Bitcoin Billionaires.

The Black Wall Street:


Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings Responds to Gov. DeSantis’ Executive Orders 101 and 102

In review of the governor’s executive orders, I am not surprised.  

He first indicated that the  order would not take effect until July 1, 2021, and then quickly changed it to be “effective  immediately.”  He then offered new language that invalidates a local government’s ability to  take action during a public health emergency.  

Orange County Government will continue to  review its statutory authority and will respond accordingly.  

Governor DeSantis has been slow to act in responding to the pandemic, which has caused local elected officials (mayors) to take action to fill the void and keep their residents safe.  I want Orange County residents to know that I will continue to make decisions in the best  interest of their health, safety and welfare and will not wait on the governor to tell me what  to do.  

This immediate past legislative session is proof positive of how the state is preempting local home-rule powers – [which] is not good for democracy.   When I ask myself, “What is really the purpose of the governor’s actions?” I conclude that his  actions are part of a larger partisan strategy by the Republican Party to usurp the authority of  Democrat-led urban counties and cities across America. 

We expect better from the governor  of Florida.     

Mayor Jerry L. Demings

Uncle Tom is Alive and Well in America in 2021

By Roger Caldwell 

In the presidential election in 2020, 18% of registered Black men voted for Ex-President Trump. Some were Republicans, some were independents, some were Democrats, some were Evangelicals, and many were conservatives. Black women in the 2020 presidential election, doubled to 8%, and voted for Ex-President Trump according to Essence Magazine. 

It is quite amazing that in 2020 more Blacks, both men and women voted for Trump, and they believed that he was the right man for the job. Trump pushed hard to win over Black and Latino voters by saying, ”Black and Latino Americans are rejecting the radical socialist left, and they’re embracing our pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-police – we want law and order, we have to have law and order – and pro-American.” 

Even though Trump lost the election by over 7 million votes, there are many Blacks, who still think he had won the election. These die-hard Trump supporters do not believe the credible numbers and state reports on the election, and they prefer to believe “The Big Lie.” 

On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, President Biden delivered his first joint speech to Congress, which spoke of his early accomplishments, made the case for his future historic agenda, and the speech was on his 99th day in office. 

This State of the Union address was historic as two women sat behind the President, one being a Black woman – Vice-President Kamala Harris, and the other was Speaker of the House – Nancy Pelosi. The image of Federal legislatures distancing in the hall was significant to America, because it spoke of the battle America was fighting with Covid-19.  

President Biden in his first joint address had an approval rating of over 60% in his handling of the pandemic, vaccines, and in his approval job rating was 53%. The President presented the country with a bold plan with sweeping ideas, and trillions in new spending, vast new investments in health care, education, the environment, infrastructure, police reform, and more. 

President Biden is a creative visionary, and he is determined to execute his programs, without bipartisanship from the Republicans, if they refuse to act. In his speech, he informed Americans that the nation was getting closer to his vision of “one people, one nation, one America”. 

It is obvious that the Republican Party and its leadership do not agree with President Biden, and it was evident in the rebuttal from Senator Tim Scott. Senator Tim Scott is a Black Republican Senator from South Carolina, and many Blacks around the country are calling him a token Black for his party.  Others are calling him Uncle Tom, and showing the connection between him, and Uncle Tom.  

When Blacks in 2021 calls someone an Uncle Tom, they are not saying it as a compliment. We reserve this name Uncle Tom for a Black conservative, a Trump supporter, a Black Republican, or someone who believes that racism does not exist in America. 

In Senator Tim Scott’s rebuttal of President Biden’s speech, the senator said, “Hear me clearly, America is not a racist country.” This statement appeared to be a play from the Republican playbook, and it made no sense to the majority of Blacks, and many other Americans. Systemic racism happens every day on many different levels, and to say it does not exist is a lie, and not the truth. 

It is time that all Americans speak the truth, and Black leaders must stop hiding from reality. 

Former President Trump disrespected our women and men, called Africa dirty names, and Black folks still voted for him. Conservative leaders are doing everything that they can do to suppress the vote, and Senator Scott appears to support all of the Republicans’ plans. 

Yes, Senator Scott is an Uncle Tom (Uncle Tim), when he defends the party whose policies have kept Black families down all these generations, and allow police to kill Blacks for walking down the street. All of this is White supremacy at its best, and our leaders must call it out, and fight it. 

Genocide is in the plan for Blacks and people of color – “What side are you on.” 

In Oklahoma, Florida and Iowa, if a Driver Kills a Protester, it’s OK if its “Unintentional”

The thinking is somewhat convoluted, but the governor of Oklahoma has just signed into law a bill that gives immunity to anyone who drives through protesters and injures or kills someone if the driver feels he or she is “fleeing from a riot” and the injuries or deaths are “unintentional.”

Similar legal efforts have also been created in Florida and Iowa.

Talk about an open season on human beings. We have reached that stage of deterioration of civil rights and human rights in the U.S. Oklahoma is not the only state to adopt such a law. There are others and, like the right-to-work-for-less laws, they’re catching on, mostly in red states, but also in states that had been liberal and friendly to trade unions and their picketing and rallying over union issues.

Over the past two or three decades, the decline of unions has seen a decline of strikes and picketing over traditional union issues. As most of us know, in the past several years, however, there has been an increase in rallies and picketing over the issues of police brutality and the killing by police of unarmed black citizens, men, boys, and women. The new surge of demonstrations has been led principally by Black Lives Matter, an organization that the right has tried to paint as violent, even to the point at which some right-wing politicians have called BLM a terrorist organization. Overwhelmingly, the BLM protests have been peaceful and, as is usually the case, the press covers them more closely when there are disturbances that have turned violent and there has been some property damage.

Oklahoma is simply following the lead of a few other states, but many states have begun to pass laws that will make it harder to exercise First Amendment rights, by assembling, speaking, picketing, marching, or joining with fellow citizens to petition the government and other authorities with their grievances. Slowly, but surely, individual rights are being squeezed out of public life, bill by bill, law by law, and attitude by attitude. It’s being done by a consortium of powers that should be protecting the rights of citizens, through Congress, state legislatures, the courts, and the press. Generally, these entities are protecting those who already hold most of the power.

For trade unionists, this is an old story. In mid-20th Century, often contracts did not have grievance procedures and grievances were solved by mass picketing at the gates by the workers until the grievance was solved. Then, they entered the factory and went to work. Grievances were mostly solved post haste or the work of the day didn’t get done. Mass picketing also was used in organizing, getting to a first contract, and settling contracts during negotiations. In other words, very effective.

That was too much worker power for Corporate America and its minions in Congress and the various state legislatures. Something had to be done to curb that power, so laws began to be passed to do that. A decade-long campaign resulted in curbing worker power and, by the late 1940s, mass picketing was pretty much outlawed.

Ahmed A. White of the University of Colorado Law School, writing in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review in 2014: “Thereafter, it ceased to serve as an effective means of labor protest. Although overlooked by labor scholars and legal historians, this successful crusade against mass picketing was a crucial event in American legal and social history. For it not only anchored a broad-ranging attack on labor rights that culminated in the 1947 enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act; it also disarmed the labor movement, leaving unions and workers unable to consolidate the rights they seized in the 1930s and 1940s and impotent against renewed attacks on labor rights that began to unfold in the 1970s and that have left the labor movement shattered.”

President Harry Truman rightly called the Taft-Hartley Act the “slave-labor bill,” because it took so many rights away from workers and their unions. He vetoed it, but Congress overrode his veto and it became law. Effectively, it destroyed any semblance of solidarity among workers across the country, by making so many features of worker solidarity illegal. That slave-labor act stands today and has served as the foundation of a series of laws and precedents that eliminate the basic rights of workers to rebuild the union movement and uplift the working class. Corporate America and the rich have achieved their goal of neutering the working class as an integral part of a democratic nation. Although there are signs of a renewed interest in the idea of “union” or solidarity, and workers are rising up in various parts of the economy, they are forced to make their economic and social gains piecemeal. The piece that is missing is the vision of worker solidarity that encompasses all workers in all industries, which comes from a strong and progressive union movement.

The oppression of workers and their unions that has been accomplished over the past century is what is happening now to the basic civil rights of Americans everywhere. The charge that Black Lives Matter is a “terrorist” organization is just a part of the effort to demonize those fighting for equity and justice in what is essentially an unjust polity. It is driven by racism, xenophobia, and lust to maintain power over much of the national life. We are seeing the beginning of sets of laws that will restrict public demonstrations, rallies, picketing, and all of the ways that aggrieved people can make their grievances known to their government and others in power. An attempt is being made to reduce the rights under the First Amendment to a simple concept: “Out of sight, out of mind.” 

There is a vast array of efforts to muffle First Amendment rights, along with some other rights that are supposedly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Not only are the laws such as Oklahoma’s meant to make potential demonstrators fearful of expression in large numbers, but there are efforts underway on university campuses to curb free speech by making it a serious offense to criticize Israel’s treatment of Palestinians or support the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement to stop the oppression of Palestinians. The latter is but one way that civil and First Amendment rights are being dismantled.

The danger of Oklahoma’s new law is that the crux of the law rests in the “intent” or “fear” of the driver of the vehicle that injures or kills demonstrators, and that is one of those indecipherables that a jury would have to decipher. As in the case of the murder of George Floyd, even an attorney general of color admitted that it was not possible to charge the cop with a hate crime. Historically, in cases like these, the side with the power wins. How the Floyd case ended is an anomaly. Those struggling for human and civil rights are hoping that the case will be a turning point…toward justice.

Many of the laws suppressing civil and human rights should eventually end up in court, but proving their unconstitutionality lies with the side which has little power and even less money to pursue legal remedies. Some of the cases will take years to resolve and during that time, the lives and safety of legal and constitutional demonstrators will be at risk. There will always be the question of what constitutes a public street and whether citizens have a right to be on them at all, at any time.

The lessons of the union movement need to be studied in this time because this modern civil rights and human rights movement is at a similar stage that unions were at in the late 1940s when the authorities were on a legal rampage to stamp out the rights of workers to act in solidarity with one another. In that, they have been successful and the struggle of workers to unionize freely continues. That need not, and should not, happen to those struggling for rights of black, brown, and other people of color, who will keep protesting, organizing, and fighting bad laws wherever they appear. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.