Estella Pyfrom’s “Brilliant Bus”: a State of the Art Mobile Learning Center that Helps Underserved Students Learn Technology

Estella Brilliant Bus

If Estella Pyfrom looks familiar, it’s because she was recognized last year as a CNN Hero, a honor she received for the humanitarian genius behind her Brilliant Bus initiative, which really is quite brilliant.

Pyfrom, a retired 50-year veteran of Florida’s Palm Beach County School District, didn’t have any training in technology before she realized students in her district lacked the digital know-how to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.  “The minute I decided that [in retirement] I wanted to continue what I was doing for 50 years [as a school administrator], I knew I needed to be creative, and I needed to understand it,” Pyfrom said in a phone interview.

So Pyfrom, who is now 76, brushed up on her tech skills in 2009 and emptied her pension to build a non-profit, state-of-the-art mobile learning center called Project Aspiration, which was later renamed Estella’s Brilliant Bus. She’s been offering free tutoring to students since 2011.

Students who were among the winners of the #YESWECODE Hackathon at the 2014 ESSENCE Festival for their GlucoReader app rode from Florida to New Orleans on Estella’s Brilliant Bus, and Pyfrom takes great pride in her affiliation with the winners.

And that’s just one of many success stories tied to Pyfrom and her work. She spoke to us about what’s next for her organization.

ESSENCE: Why did you decide to launch your Brilliant Bus?

Estella Pyfrom: I started Brilliant Bus in an effort to expose kids to technology. I became passionate about technology when I realized that it would give kids so much exposure and different ways to connect with the world. I also just looked at what was going on in the community.  When I was building my curriculum, I coordinated with area schools so that I could correlate what I was doing on the bus with what students were doing at school.  I started working with kids at day care centers, churches, schools and community centers, and I ended up being able to offer a program for kids at all levels to prepare them for standardized tests, readiness tests and GED tests.

ESSENCE: What’s special about this method of teaching?

EP: Not only is it unique and innovative, it’s an idea that works. The Brilliant Bus is customized and I built it from scratch. The bus is a mobile learning lab and it can do whatever a classroom can do. Instead of kids who live in undeserved neighborhoods finding me, I am able to take the learning to the neighborhoods.

ESSENCE: What do your students tell you is their favorite part of the Brilliant Bus?

EP: Kids will do anything to get out of the classroom. They say it’s like going on a field trip. One of the good things they tell me is that the activities [on the bus] are so much in sync with what they are doing in the classroom and that it’s a good supplement. Everything that I do with kids on the bus is grade and age level appropriate.

ESSENCE: What’s next for the bus? How will you expand on it?

EP: Brilliant Bus isn’t just a bus; it’s a movement. We plan on building these clubs in various communities. We’re conducting surveys now so that we can move beyond coding and into Robotics. We are going to get really creative with science and math so we can build robots.

Don’t forget to follow the #YESWECODE conversation on Twitter and keep up with Estella’s Brilliant Bus on Facebook.

article via essence.com

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Speaks Out Against Supreme Court for Forsaking Fight Against “Real Racial Problem”

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said recent decisions by the high court undermine its role in solving a “real racial problem” in America. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)Although the U.S. Supreme Court was “once a leader in the world” in the battle for racial equality, recent decisions by the high court undermine its role in solving a “real racial problem” in America, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in an interview with The National Law Journal last Wednesday.

Citing recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and racially biased stop-and-frisk policies, Ginsburg reflected on the perpetuation of racial segregation in America, comparing the challenges with those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Once [gay] people began to say who they were, you found that it was your next-door neighbor or it could be your child, and we found people we admired,” she said. “That understanding still doesn’t exist with race; you still have separation of neighborhoods, where the races are not mixed. It’s the familiarity with people who are gay that still doesn’t exist for race and will remain that way for a long time as long as where we live remains divided.”

But instead of upholding the court’s history as a powerful stalwart against racial discrimination, the Roberts court’s recent decisions upholding affirmative action bans and restricting voting rights have not “helped” the country advance, Ginsburg explained.

“What’s amazing is how things have changed,” Ginsburg said, recalling the landmark 1971 decision of Griggs v. Duke Power Co., in which the Supreme Court unanimously held that employer policies that look neutral on paper can still constitute discrimination if they disproportionately harm minorities in practice. “It was a very influential decision and it was picked up in England. That’s where the court was heading in the ’70s.”

Singling out the Voting Rights Act as the most powerful law “in terms of making people count in a democracy,” Ginsburg reiterated her opposition to the court’s majority 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision that helped safeguard against racial discrimination in voting laws.

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Pop Debut Shows Off Atlanta Teenager Raury’s Epic Scope

Raury, performing in June in Atlanta on his 18th birthday, his first proper headlining performance. He called it Raurfest. Raury’s debut album, “Indigo Child,” will be released on Monday. (Troy Stains for The New York Times)

Raury, performing in June in Atlanta on his 18th birthday, his first proper headlining performance. He called it Raurfest. Raury’s debut album, “Indigo Child,” was released on Monday. (Troy Stains for The New York Times)

ATLANTA — In June, on the day Raury turned 18, he woke up earlyish and went to the aquarium here with an old friend for a low-key afternoon. He’d just graduated from high school, but this night was the real cause for celebration — a concert he’d been planning for months. He called it Raurfest.

It was an ambitious name for his first proper headlining performance, but Raury’s taste for the epic is among his most appealing characteristics. So that night, in a gallery space/abandoned industrial building near downtown, a dinner was organized in his honor, followed by a show under the stars.

Yesterday, Raury released his first album, “Indigo Child” — free online at indigochildproject.com, though he is signed to Columbia. It is, for the most part, an astonishingly assured debut, full of multipart songs teeming with deeply felt ideas. He has an easy way with melody but also a consistently grand-scaled sense of theater, which makes for music that’s intimate and imposing all at once.

It’s an album, he said, “made from frustrations, made from being looked down upon, made from being an outcast and not like everyone else.” His response to those obstacles is elegant pop that takes in tender soul, muscled rock and flickers of hip-hop attitude.

“I want it to sound like a World War III benefit concert,” he joked.

“God’s Whisper,” his breakthrough song, is like anarchic gospel, with a hollow stomp that could almost be borrowed from Mumford & Sons. “Cigarette Song” owes at least some of its silken attitude to Terence Trent D’Arby. Elsewhere, there are shades of Kid Cudi, Outkast and MGMT.

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Jackie Robinson West All-Stars Gave Their All in Little League World Series Championship, Celebrated by Hometown Even in Defeat

Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West All-Stars  (Photo: TWITTER)

The Jackie Robinson West All-Stars are still the pride of Chicago, even after a tough loss to South Korea in the Little League World Series championship game. The Jackie Robinson West team put up a valiant fight, including a late rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, but in the end it was not enough to hold off the mighty bats and dominant pitching performance from the Seoul team, which handed the South Side Chicago sluggers an 8-4 loss.

According to the Associated Press, normal Sunday activities in Chicago were on hold for a few hours while the all-black Jackie Robinson West ballplayers, who “made their first appearance in 31 years in the Little League World Series” and had stolen the nation’s heart on their way to the championship game, took the field.

Several hundred supporters gathered at TV watch stations to root for the team, which, until the final game, had dominated all comers.

AP notes that despite the defeat, several fans gathered at the South Side community center gym and roared and cheered just as if their boys had won.  “They showed what heart they have. The city could not be prouder of them,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told AP.

Jackie Robinson West’s run was a nice break for an area that has been ravished by poverty and violence.

“I have never seen the community come together like this,” Eldridge Dockery, 44, told AP. “We’re usually behind our walls or gates—but this team brought us out, talking and celebrating together.”

According to news station WGN-TV, a parade is planned for the team on Wednesday.

Read more at the Associated Press and WGN-TV.

Dave Chappelle Surprises at Hartford’s 2014 Oddball Comedy Festival, Wins over Formerly Hostile Crowd

Dave Chappelle at 2014 Oddball and Curiosity Comedy Festival

Dave Chappelle at 2014 Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival

HARTFORD — One year after he bombed in one of the most notoriously disastrous stand-up sets in memory, Dave Chappelle made a surprise return here — and no one seemed more surprised than he.

“I didn’t think I’d ever come back to Hartford,” he said on Saturday, closing out a star-studded Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival show that was the biggest blockbuster in stand-up this summer.

After being roundly booed and heckled in 2013, Mr. Chappelle had promised that he would never return to Hartford, “not even for gas.” He also joked that if North Korea were to drop a nuclear bomb on the United States, he hoped it would fall on Hartford. He did not retract his criticism (“It was your fault,” he reminded the crowd), but on the day before his 41st birthday, he struck conciliatory notes. “I was really immature,” he conceded, before apologizing for making T-shirts that cursed the city.

The crowd embraced him without restraint, roaring when he appeared onstage, laughing throughout his set and remaining carefully quiet in between jokes. Mr. Chappelle, dressed in a long black dress shirt and smoking a cigarette, said that doing so poorly was hard on him. Then he confessed that he had not prepared anything for this show. “I figured showing up is funny enough.”

The warm show was in a stark contrast to last year’s Oddball performance, which began boisterous, turned contentious and ended with him running out his allotted time by, among other things, reading a book aloud onstage. Media accounts situated the show as part of a pattern of mercurial behavior, including his quitting his hit show on Comedy Central. Some described the evening as a meltdown, others as a crowd run amok.

As Mr. Chappelle has deftly done before, he turned bad press to his advantage, using it for comedy, starting with his next show in Chicago, where he described the Hartford crowd as “evil.” The jokes must have stung, since they earned a response from the mayor of Hartford, Pedro Segarra, who tweeted, “Dave Chappelle needs to quit whining, do his job and try some yoga.”

Mr. Chappelle’s return capped a dynamite night of stand-up comedy featuring a murderers’ row of comics, including Sarah Silverman, Hannibal Buress, Dave Attell, Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. In a nice bit of suspense-generating stagecraft, Louis C.K., the final act on the bill, finished his set, started walking offstage, only to stop, return to the microphone and dramatically tell everyone to stay, before introducing Mr. Chappelle.

Last year’s Hartford show was so infamous that at several points, jokes by comics evoked the controversy. When after Mr. Ansari made his entrance and thanked the crowd, he made a joke demanding to know whether the audience would finally be quiet and let him speak.

Louis C.K. made an even more pointed jab by opening his set by saying of Hartford, “Nice area,” then making a wry face. The large screens picked up his smile and raised eyebrows when he held onto the moment, extending the pause, and repeating sarcastically, “Really nice.” With a new set dense with jokes, Louis C.K. was in peak form, returning to bread-and-butter subjects like raising two kids and also mining humor through some of the most unpredictable punch lines in comedy. After a setup about trying to answer the question of why babies always cry on planes, he concluded, “They are upset about gay marriage.”

Mr. Chappelle made a callback to this joke in a bit he does about Chaz Bono. While Mr. Chappelle comes off as the absent-minded enigma, he has a showman’s sense of event honed over a lifetime of performing. (He did his first stand-up set in Washington at the age of 14.) But on this night, he also seemed genuinely moved by the response.

“Are you sure this is Hartford?” Mr. Chappelle asked toward the end. Then, not much later, looking pleased and a little mischievous, he pointed to the front rows and said, “There’s someone giving me the middle finger.”

article by Jason Zinoman via nytimes.com

Respectful Mourning and Calls for Action at Funeral for Michael Brown

Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, at his funeral in St. Louis. (RICHARD PERRY / THE NEW YORK TIMES)

ST. LOUIS — They came by the thousands to pay their respects. Among them were the parents and extended family — some 500 strong — of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed more than two weeks ago by a Ferguson police officer.

But the crowd of mourners also included the Rev. Jesse Jackson; film director Spike Lee; T. D. Jakes, the bishop of The Potter’s House, an African-American megachurch; several members of Congress; representatives from the White House; and two children of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During a deeply religious service here on Monday at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, several speakers exhorted mourners to work for justice, not just for Mr. Brown but for others, long after the funeral was over.

“There is a cry being made from the ground, not just for Michael Brown, but for the Trayvon Martins, for those children in Sandy Hook Elementary School, for the Columbine massacre, for black-on-black crime,” the Rev. Charles Ewing, Mr. Brown’s uncle, said.

Speaking before the overflowing crowd, the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized the militarization of the police and their treatment of Mr. Brown, while calling on African-Americans to push for change instead of “sitting around having ghetto pity parties.”

On Sunday, relatives of Mr. Brown had asked for quiet during the funeral. The fatal shooting had set off weeks of protests and a severe police reaction in Ferguson. Several speakers echoed pleas from Mr. Brown’s family for people to refrain from protesting on Monday.

“Please don’t exacerbate the almost unbearable pain of this family,” said Bishop Edwin Bass of the Church of God in Christ. “It is imperative that we resist the temptation to react by rioting.”

Many mourners, most of whom were black, wore buttons showing Mr. Brown’s picture, and large photos of Mr. Brown stood at the front of the church. Rousing hymns by the Missouri Jurisdictional Choir repeatedly brought the entire crowd to their feet.

Among the family members who spoke, Cal Brown, Mr. Brown’s stepmother, said that just weeks before he was shot, Mr. Brown had described a dream in which he had seen bloody sheets hanging on a clothes line. “He pretty much prophesied his own death and he didn’t even realize it,” she said, calling him “an awesome man” who wanted to have a family and “be a good father.”

In addition to numerous readings from the Bible, there were readings from Dr. King and references to significant court cases in black history. Referring to the original determination in the Constitution that blacks were counted as three-fifths of a man for the purposes of voting, Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who is representing Mr. Brown’s family, said that the teenager “was not three-fifths of a citizen. He was an American citizen and we will not accept three-fifths justice.”

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Sugar Hill Record’s Co-Founder Sylvia Robinson Biopic In The Works

Sylvia Robinson

The film rights for the “Mother of Hip Hop,” the late Sylvia Robinson (pictured), who helped put the musical genre on the map, was acquired by producer Paula Wagner, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Robinson co-founded Sugar Hill Records, the label that produced the Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 classic “Rapper’s Delight,” credited as the first monster hit to get folks to sit up and pay attention to Hip-Hop.  Robinson was also the machine behind such early Hip-Hop artists as Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, who recorded the classic song, “The Message.”

Wagner secured the rights to Robinson’s life story from her son, Joey, who will reportedly act as the biopic’s consultant and executive producer. Grandmaster Melle Mel, another Hip-Hop pioneer, will also wear the hat of consultant on the film.

According to Wagner, the film will span Robinson’s four decade career and encompass all of the important aspects of her busy life, including the music business, her mercurial love life and the indelible mark she left on a genre of music that has grown to immense proportions.

“Sylvia Robinson’s life story has all the elements of a great film,” said Wagner in a statement according to The Hollywood Reporter. “It is not only the story of female empowerment at a time when the world of music was male-dominated, but it’s also a story of the origin of Hip-Hop and how this woman’s determination, immense talent and savvy business sense fostered an entire musical movement.”

“This movie is going to show how my parents were able to remain independent, keep control of their publishing and master recordings and how they later dealt with the major record labels and mob associates,” added Joey. “Sugarhill paved the way for a new genre of music that the industry had no knowledge of back in 1979. You will see the struggles of what Sugarhill went through to keep Hip-Hop music alive when the industry wanted to bury it.”

Besides navigating the musical careers of performers, Robinson, herself, was a recording artist with such hits under her belt as “Love Is Strange” in 1957, as part of the duo Mickey and Sylvia and the 1973 R&B hit, “Pillow Talk,” which was a solo project.

article by Ruth Manuel-Logan via newsone.com

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