Taofick Okoya’s “Queens of Africa” Dolls are Taking on Barbie

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Queens of Africa, the black doll line that’s outselling Barbie in Nigeria, started as a personal mission seven years ago. Taofick Okoya was frustrated that he couldn’t find a black doll on the market for his niece. “I happen to be the kind of person that doesn’t enjoy complaining and criticizing without taking any action,” the 43-year-old businessman tells ELLE.com. So he researched making a doll that Nigerian girls could identify with: one with their skin color and traditional African fashion.

“It became a frontline project for me due to the resistance the dolls received because of their color and outfits from most children and distributors,” he explains. “I spent about two years campaigning on the importance and benefits of dolls in the African likeness. During that process, I realized greater social issues such as low self esteem, which led to the passion to make a change in the coming generation. It’s been a tough journey but one I have enjoyed.”

Okoya created two lines of dolls, Queens of Africa (which come with three outfits, four accessories, and cost 1,300 to 3,500 naira, or $6.75 to $18.18) and Naija Princesses (which come with two outfits, two accessories, and cost 500-1,000 naira, or $2.60 to $5.19). Each doll represents a different African tribe (Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa).

Okoya sells 6,000 to 9,000 dolls a month, Reuters reports—10 to 15 percent of Nigeria’s small but growing toy market, by Okoya’s estimation. The dolls have quite a few fans. Okoya shares one’s testimony: “Usually the black dolls are so dark, I don’t buy them because they look nothing like me. I think that if they had maybe a better variety of black dolls with different colors like yours, that would be a lot better. No two black people are the same color: Some have darker and some have lighter pigments. Like many other African Americans, I have never found a doll that really fits me ’till now.”

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NYC Awards $3.9M In 2012 Police Killing Of Unarmed Bronx Teen Ramarley Graham

Frank Graham (C), father of Ramarley Gragam, who was shot and killed by police officers in New York in 2012, speaks outside the New York Police Department Headquarters after marching in the National March Against Police Violence, which was organized by National Action Network, on December 13, 2014 in New York City. The march coincided with a march in Washington D.C. and comes on the heels of two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Frank Graham (C), father of Ramarley Gragam, who was shot and killed by police officers in New York in 2012, speaks outside the New York Police Department Headquarters after marching in the National March Against Police Violence, on December 13, 2014 in New York City. The march coincided with a march in Washington D.C. and comes on the heels of two grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

New York City agreed Friday to pay $3.9 million to the family of a Bronx teenager shot to death by a white police officer in 2012.  The deal settled a federal lawsuit brought by the family of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham (pictured below).

“This was a tragic case,” said New York Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci. “After evaluating all the facts, and consulting with key stakeholders such as the NYPD, it was determined that settling the matter was in the best interest of the city.”

Attorney Royce Russell said the family will comment Monday.

Graham died after he was shot once in the chest in February 2012 in a tiny bathroom in the three-family home where he lived with his grandmother and other relatives.  Richard Haste, the officer who shot him, said he fired his weapon because he thought he was going to be shot. No weapons were found in the apartment.

Haste was indicted on manslaughter charges in the summer of 2012, but charges were dismissed by a judge who said prosecutors improperly instructed grand jurors to imply they should disregard testimony from police officers that they radioed Haste in advance to warn him that they thought Graham had a pistol. A second grand jury declined to re-indict the officer.

Manhattan federal prosecutors are conducting a civil rights investigation.

Ramarley Graham story

The Graham shooting has been cited during demonstrations after grand juries in Missouri and New York declined to indict police officers in the deaths last year of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson and 43-year-old Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk after he was put in a chokehold when he was stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The deaths fueled a national conversation about policing and race.

The Graham deal adds to a series of settlements in high-profile civil rights claims against police, jail officers and the city under first-term Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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African-American Racer Wendell Scott Officially Inducted into NASCAR Hall of Fame Tonight

Wendell Scott

NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott

Announced last May, the news finally became official: as of tonight, African-American race car driver Wendell Scott is the first black man inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Scott drove during the Jim Crow era, and he was the first African-American to win a race at NASCAR’s elite major league level. He died in 1990.  His career began in 1952, and his racing team was his family. They would travel to races together from their home in Virginia, and his sons served as his pit crew.

Wendell Scott's son Frank Scott (left) and grandson Warrick Scott at StoryCorps in Danville, Va. Wendell Scott, who died in 1990, was one of the first African-American NASCAR drivers to win a race at the elite level.

Wendell Scott’s son Frank Scott (left) and grandson Warrick Scott at StoryCorps in Danville, Va. Wendell Scott, who died in 1990, was one of the first African-American NASCAR drivers to win a race at the elite level.

“It was like Picasso, like a great artist doing his work,” says Scott’s son, Frank, 67, at StoryCorps. “And he was in that car, he was doing his work. And as children we didn’t have that leisure time, you know, we couldn’t go to the playground. He said to us, ‘I need you at the garage.’ I can remember him getting injured, and he’d just take axle grease and put it in the cut and keep working.”

But Scott wasn’t allowed to race at certain speedways. When he planned to go to Atlanta, he even received death threats.

“Daddy said, ‘Look, if I leave in a pine box, that’s what I gotta do. But I’m gonna race,’ ” Frank says. “I can remember him racing in Jacksonville, and he beat them all, but they wouldn’t drop the checkered flag. And then when they did, they had my father in third place. One of the main reasons that they gave was there was a white beauty queen, and they always kissed the driver.”

“Did he ever consider not racing anymore?” asks Scott’s grandson, Warrick, 37.

“Never,” Frank says. “That was one of my daddy’s sayings: ‘When it’s too tough for everybody else, it’s just right for me.’ ”

Before the Atlanta 500 in 1964, Scott was sick and needed an operation, but he refused not to race.

“And so, I said, ‘Daddy, we don’t have to race,’ ” Frank says. “He whispered to me and said, ‘Lift my legs up and put me in the car.’ So, I took my arms and put them behind his legs and kind of acted like I was hugging him and helped him into the car. He drove 500 miles that day.”

Wendell Scott (right) and his son Frank in Darlington, S.C., in 1970. Wendell Scott becomes the first African-American driver inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday.

Wendell Scott (right) and his son Frank in Darlington, S.C., in 1970. Wendell Scott becomes the first African-American driver inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday. (Courtesy of the Scott family)

“How did his racing career officially end?” Warrick asks.

Scott’s career ended only because he couldn’t afford to race anymore. No one would financially support his career.

“Where other drivers that we were competing against had major sponsorships, providing them engineers, as many cars as they needed,” Frank says, “he did everything that he did out of his own pocket.

“He always felt like someday he’s going to get his big break,” Frank adds. “But for 20 years nobody mentioned Wendell Scott. At one point it was like he never existed. But he didn’t let it drive him crazy. I think that’s what made him so great. He chose to be a race car driver, and he was going to race until he couldn’t race no more.”

Produced for Morning Edition by Jud Esty-Kendall and John White.  To hear audio of this story, click through to npr.org.

“SNL” Writer and Cast Member Leslie Jones On Tap for All-Female ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot

Leslie Jones

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Leslie Jones is in final negotiations to sign on for the all-female version of the classic 1980s film “Ghostbusters.”

Joining Jones for the reboot will be her fellow SNL’ers Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon, in addition to “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” star Melissa McCarthy. Although negotiations are still ongoing, the film’s director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) tweeted a picture of the ladies, which suggests they’re in it for the long run.

Jones’ involvement in the “Ghostbusters” reboot could mark a major milestone for the funny lady, who has been making people laugh for more than 30 years. Jones’ achievements, as noted by Vulture.com, include opening for Jamie Foxx and Katt Williams as well as starring in her own Showtime stand-up comedy special in 2011. Last January, Jones joined the cast of SNL, becoming one of two Black female cast members currently on the show’s roster. Jones also recently appeared in Chris Rock’s film “Top Five.”

article by Qwest7 via eurweb.com

Producer/Songwriter Nile Rodgers to be Honored with Vanguard Award During This Year’s Grammys Celebration

56th GRAMMY Awards - Press Room

Nile Rodgers, the songwriter and producer behind Chic’s “Le Freak,” David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” will be honored by the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing at a special tribute on February 3.  As part of the official roster of Grammy week events, the evening will include appearances by nine-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, six-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau, and Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin.

Rodgers co-founded the legendary band Chic with Bernard Edwards in the late ‘70s, and capitalized on disco’s popularity with a string of hits including “Good Times” and “I Want Your Love.”  Rodgers also produced for top artists such as Madonna and Diana Ross, and won the Grammy for Record of the Year for Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” along with Pharrell Williams in 2014.

Rodgers will also be awarded the Vanguard Award at this year’s MojaMoja Pre-Grammy Brunch, an annual event hosted by KCRW’s Garth Trinidad.  In March, Chic will release a new album entitled It’s About Time.  

article by Rhonda Nicole via theurbandaily.com

Fox’s “Empire” Draws Largest Audience Yet in 4th Week, Dominates Wednesday

Empire TV Review Fox

There appears to be no slowing down Fox drama “Empire,” which drew its largest overall audience yet on Wednesday and again stood as the night’s dominant program in all key demographics. This week, it built by its biggest demo margins to date on its winning “American Idol” lead-in while pulling ahead of the reality show in total viewers for the first time.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “Empire” averaged a 4.3 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 and 11.3 million viewers overall — just about on par with last week’s series high in the demo and gaining about 250,000 total viewers to hit a high by that measure. After premiering with about 9.9 million viewers on Jan. 7, “Empire” has grown to 10.3 million, 11.0 million and now 11.3 million week to week.

It has also grown with each week in adults 18-34 rating, premiering to a 2.9 and rising to a 3.4, 3.6 and to a 3.9 last night.

The show continues to generate a young, diverse audience, averaging a whopping 60 share among African-Americans heading into last night and standing as the season’s No. 1 program among blacks in adults 18-49, 25-54 and 18-34. But it’s also the No. 1 new series and broadcast drama among English-speaking Hispanic adults under 50.

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Comedian and Activist Dick Gregory to be Honored with Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

dick gregory (walk of fame)The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has announced that comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory will be honored with the 2,542nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday, February 2, 2015.

The star in the category of Live Theatre/Performance will be dedicated at 1650 Vine Street near Hollywood & Vine.

“We are proud to honor Dick Gregory with a star on the Walk of Fame during Black History month. He has given so much to the world with his wisdom through his work in entertainment,” stated Leron Gubler, President of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and emcee of the ceremonies.

The star ceremony will be streamed live exclusively on www.walkoffame.com

The day after the ceremony the celebration will continue with the Dick Gregory & Friends All Star Tribute and Toast on Tuesday, February 3, at 8:00 p.m. at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, 1615 N. Vine Street in Hollywood.

Richard Claxton Gregory aka Dick Gregory is a comedian, civil rights activist, author, recording artist, actor, philosopher and anti-drug crusader. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gregory, 82, began his career as a comedian while serving in the military in the mid-1950s. He was drafted in 1954 while attending Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After being discharged in 1956, with a desire to perform comedy professionally, he moved to Chicago.

Gregory attributes the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner, who watched him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar. Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club as a replacement for comedian Professor Irwin Corey.

By 1962, Gregory had become a nationally-known headline performer, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances, and recording popular comedy albums. Gregory, whose style was detached, ironic, and satirical, gained the attention of audiences with his political and controversial stand up acts. By being both outspoken and provocative, he became a household name and opened many doors for Black entertainers.

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