World’s 1st Black Flight Attendant Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith Honored by Black Flight Attendants of America

Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith

Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith honored in Denver. (PHOTO COURTESY DANIEL SMITH)

Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith vividly remembers her first flight at the tender age of 17.

“I was yelling and screaming and [the other flight attendant] was telling me to calm down,” she recalls, laughing at the memory of the first time she’d experienced soaring amid the clouds in an airplane. “I kept thinking, ‘what if I die?'”

Doualla-Bell Smith had no idea that first flight – as terrifying as it seemed – would mark the beginning of an illustrious aviation industry career that would ultimately span nearly five decades and earn the honorable distinction of being known as one of the world’s first black flight attendants.

In celebration of their 40th anniversary, the Black Flight Attendants of America recently honored Doualla-Bell Smith, 76, now retired in Denver, for her years of service at the Flight Path Museum at the Los Angeles International Airport.

Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith

Léopoldine Doualla-Bell Smith honored in Denver by the Black Flight Attendants of America. (PHOTO COURTESY DANIEL SMITH)

“When I heard of Mrs. Smith’s generous humanitarian efforts and spirit of volunteerism, I knew she had to have been a woman of substance of whom we all should be proud,” explains event chairperson Diane Hunter. “Everyone should know of her ‘journey’ to become the first black flight attendant in the world: on every continent and particularly in this country where we were emerged in a historic struggle for equal civil rights under the laws of the [U.S.] Constitution.”

History buffs may know that Ruth Carol Taylor is on record as the first African-American flight attendant in the United States. Her initial flight was reportedly February 11, 1958 on a Mohawk Airlines flight from Ithaca to New York. Unfortunately her career abruptly ended six months later due to a common practice among airlines of the day of releasing flight attendants who got married or became pregnant.

As a stewardess with Union Aéromaritime de Transport (UAT) Doualla-Bell Smith, who was born in the West African nation of Cameroon, actually took flight for the first time the year before Taylor in 1957.

“When I was young there were only white men and women working on the plane,” she remembers. “I was one of the first blacks to be hired and it was a big deal; everybody in my town was talking about it. It was even in the newspaper.”

Her aviation career took off early on when Doualla-Bell Smith, a princess of the royal Douala family of Cameroon, accepted an after-school job as a ground hostess with UAT (which later merged into the Union de Transports Aériens or UTA), the airline that, along with Air France served, France’s African routes. She stayed on for two years and after graduating from high school in 1956 at the age of 17, Doualla-Bell Smith was recruited and sent to Paris for flight training by Air France.

She joined UAT a year later as an “hôtesse de l’air,” what flight attendants were called then. By 1960, she was recruited by Air Afrique, a Pan-African airline mainly owned by many West African countries created to serve 11 newly independent French-speaking nations.

In fact, her stellar credentials as an African with French aviation experience helped her stand out so much she became the airline’s first official hire (in fact, her employee identification card literally read “no. 001″). It didn’t take long for her to get promoted to Air Afrique’s first cabin chief position.

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National Society of Black Engineers Supports and Promotes Next Generation of STEM Hopefuls at 41st Annual Convention

NSBE Convention Attendees (Photo Courtesy Christina Sykes)

NSBE Convention Attendees (Photo Courtesy Christina Sykes)

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), an organization that seeks to increase the number of black engineering professionals, is currently holding its annual convention in Anaheim, California through March 29.  The 41st Annual Convention is being held at the Anaheim Convention Center and neighboring facilities, and is expected to draw more than 8,000 attendees.

NSBE’s largest event, the Annual Convention has been a turning point in the lives of countless black college and pre-college students over the past four decades. The convention showcases black students and professionals who have a passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), who are high-achievers in these fields and who are channeling their passion to advance their communities and society at large.

NSBE’s members will be joined by local leaders and celebrities such as Devon Franklin and Laz Alonzo, in activities and events spotlighting the next phase of engineering and centered on the conference theme: “Innovation & Excellence: Reimagining Your Future.”

NSBE

NSBE 41st Convention Attendees (Photo: nsbe.org)

As the convention prepares to get underway, the Society’s executive director says NSBE’s chief focus is achieving one goal of its new strategic plan: to graduate 10,000 black engineers with bachelor’s degrees, annually, by the year 2025.

“We view our Annual Convention as a time to show the world what excellence in engineering looks like,” says Karl W. Reid, Ed.D.  “As we continue to advance NSBE’s mission to increase the number of black engineers, we are also focusing on making engineering the career of choice for many more black children around the world.  We are committed to reimagining our children’s futures.”

Sossena Wood, a Ph.D. student in bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, is NSBE’s national chair, the organization’s top-ranking officer.

“NSBE’s Annual Convention has been a big part of my personal development,” she says. “Six years ago, in Las Vegas,  as a first-time member of the NSBE Senate, I was actively involved in deciding what path the Society would take in the coming year. Now, as we prepare for our convention in Anaheim, I have come full circle, as I share with the Senate the path the Society should take until 2025.”

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Lauryn Hill’s Grammy-Winning Album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” to Be Entered Into the Library of Congress

Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill poses with the five Grammy Awards she won for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill at the 41st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles Feb. 24, 1999. (VINCE BUCCI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Each year, the Library of Congress selects 25 recordings to add to its archive. This year, Lauryn Hill’s record-breaking album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, will be included in the 25.

According to the Library of Congress press release, among requirements for inclusion in the archive are that the recordings be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” and be at least 10 years old. The Library of Congress gave a lengthy explanation as to why it chose Hill’s debut album:

“Lauryn Hill’s debut solo record, following the breakup of the Fugees, is a work of honesty in which Hill explores her feelings on topics that included the deep wonder of pregnancy, the pitfalls of modern relationships and the experience of the sacred. The album effortlessly fuses soul, rhythm and blues, rap and reggae. Hill’s vocal range, smooth clear highs and vibrato are stunning. The rapping is rhythmically compelling while always retaining, and frequently exploiting, the natural cadences of conversational speech. Standout guest performances include Carlos Santana’s soulful acoustic guitar solo on ‘Zion,’ and duets with Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo on ‘I Used to Love Him’ and ‘Nothing Even Matters,’ respectively.”

Hill’s album joins an eclectic list, which includes Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand album, and even a Sesame Street platinum-hits album.

Check out the full list of inductees below:

1. Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings at University of California, Santa Barbara Library (c.1890-1910)

2. The Benjamin Ives Gilman Collection, recorded at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago (1893)

3. “The Boys of the Lough”/ “The Humours of Ennistymon” (single)—Michael Coleman (1922)
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“Empire” Star Taraji P. Henson Reigns as “Saturday Night Live” Host on April 11

Taraji P. Henson as "Cookie" in FOX's 'Empire'

Taraji P. Henson as “Cookie” in FOX’s ‘Empire’

According to usatoday.com, “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson will make her “Saturday Night Live” hosting debut on April 11, 2015.  On that day, Henson will join the short list of black women who have taken the SNL reins:  Cicely TysonKerry Washington, Queen Latifah, “Empire” castmate Gabourey Sidibe, Janet Jackson, Halle Berry and Oprah Winfrey, to name the few.

Mumford & Sons will be the show’s musical guest - their second time.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

 

Comprehensive Grace Jones Feature Documentary on BBC Films’ 2015 Production Slate

Grace Jones

BBC Films is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an announcement of 15 new projects that will be released this year.

Among the 15 is a new documentary on Grace Jones from director Sophie Fiennes. Described as an observational portrait, the feature film is titled “Grace Jones – The Musical of My Life” and it will weave a multi-narrative journey through the private and public realms of the legendary singer and performer, mixing intimate personal footage with unique staged musical sequences.

It’s produced by Katie Holly, James Wilson, Emilie Blézat and Sophie Fiennes.

BBC Films join the BFI Film Fund and the Irish Film Board as co-financers.

No other details on the project are available at this time. It was 1 of 3 feature documentaries selected for funding by the BFI a year ago, following pitching sessions held at, and in partnership with the UK’s leading documentary festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The shortlisted teams were asked to give a 7-minute pitch and show clips of footage, and then fielded questions from the panel about the strength of the stories, characters and cinematic potential of the projects.

Incredibly, this will be the first comprehensive feature film (fiction or non-fiction) on the personal and professional life of Grace Jones – so my research tells me.

No word on when exactly it’ll be released, or whether it’ll become available in the USA.

article by Tambay A. Benson via blogs.indiewire.com

Carnival Corporation Names Julia M. Brown to Newly-Formed Position of Chief Procurement Officer

Julia M. Brown

Julia M. Brown

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest travel and leisure company, today named Julia M. Brown to the newly created role of Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) overseeing strategic sourcing and supplier relationship management.

As part of this new role, Brown will work closely with the company’s nine brands and their support groups  to strategically procure goods and services to further strengthen the company’s supplier relationships and leverage its global scale. 

“We are excited to have Julia join us as part of our global management team and take on this new role that will be critical in helping us further leverage our scale, accelerating our drive to double-digit returns on invested capital,” said Arnold Donald, president & CEO for Carnival Corporation. “I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Julia through our mutual association with the Executive Leadership Council, and she not only has an exceptional track record of leading procurement at companies with massive global operations, but also has a highly strategic and collaborative approach that will help us partner more closely with our suppliers to exceed guest expectations and drive value for the business.” 

RELATED: Arnold Donald, Carnival Corporation’s 1st Black CEO, Navigates Cruise Lines to $1.5 Billion in Profit

Brown most recently served as CPO on the global management team at Mondelēz International, which split from Kraft Foods in 2012.  Prior to the split, Brown served as CPO and SVP of global procurement at Kraft Foods, responsible for the company’s $30 billion strategic sourcing function. Prior to Kraft, she served as CPO and VP of corporate procurement and contract manufacturing at Clorox. Brown began her career at Procter & Gamble and also served in strategic roles at Diageo and Gillette.  

Brown is on the board for the Executive Leadership Foundation and also serves as a trustee for the African American Experience Fund, which is part of The National Park Service. She also serves as a board member for the Primo Center in Chicago.

Brown has been named as one of the top 100 most “Influential Blacks in Corporate America” by Savoy Magazine, the top 100 Women to Watch by Today’s Chicago Woman and listed in Black Enterprise’s Top 75 Most Powerful Women in Business.  

She received a Bachelor of Commerce from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. 

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Formerly Homeless Veteran Alicia Watkins Now a Student at Harvard University

U.S. Veteran Alicia WatkinsAlicia Watkins is a retired Air Force staff sergeant who proudly served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She risked her life for the freedom of others, survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, and watched her colleagues die. But it wasn’t any of her combat experiences that broke Watkins’ spirit; it was the fact that she retired from the military and found herself homeless.

In 2010, Watkins’ allowed “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to document her life as a homeless veteran. Her “kitchen” was a cardboard box of snacks and microwavable meals. Her bed was a car that she rented for $10 a day. Her restrooms were the toilets at various airport hotels.

Watch a clip from Watkins’ eye-opening video diary.

The 10-year veteran was struggling, but even during her low points, she believed that others were struggling more. At one point, Watkins did have housing, but she gave up her room to a homeless mother and her three kids.

“It might have been different had I not seen the children and the babies. So, I decided to be on the street and put them in the room,” Watkins told Oprah five years ago. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Since that emotional interview, a lot has changed for Watkins, who recently sent an update to “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” In the above video, she shares a surprising truth: Until her ‘Oprah Show’ interview aired, Watkins’ friends and family had no idea she was homeless.

“I had… alienated myself from everyone,” she admits now. “They really were shocked when they found out, and they were also just hurt by the fact that I was suffering.”

After the show, Watkins moved in with a family friend. Though she no longer lives in a car, Watkins says that her many health issues have prevented her from being able to work.

“I have traumatic brain injury, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, I have a spinal cord injury,” she says. “It’s a hard road. I would love to be able to work today. I have offers, I have people that are willing to help me, but they all have to take a backseat to my health. As much as I want to work, I have to acknowledge that I am a casualty of war.”

With a secure roof over her head, Watkins decided to focus on her education and began applying to colleges.

“I wanted to be able to care for wounded warriors, and so I decided to apply to Harvard University,” she says. “In 2012, I was accepted. My college expenses are paid by the G.I. Bill.”

Watkins’ says that her personal life has really turned around as well.

“I recently got engaged, on my birthday of all days,” she says, smiling. “It is amazing.”

“Oprah: Where Are They Now?” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

article via huffingtonpost.com