Former NFL Star Randy Moss Hands Diploma to Lifelong Fan, Friend and Cancer Survivor Kassi Spier at her High School Graduation

Randy Moss visited a special friend on Friday. (Pelican Rapids Press)

Randy Moss with Kassi Spier on Friday. (Pelican Rapids Press)

Back in 1998, two-year-old Kassi Spier caught Randy Moss‘ attention when she yelled his name while Moss was going through his first training camp with the Minnesota Vikings.

The two quickly formed a bond, a bond that became stronger in 2000 after Spier was diagnosed with leukemia. Despite the leukemia, Spier still made it to training camp that year to visit Moss, according to St. Paul Pioneer-Press story.  “Randy loves that girl to death,” Daunte Culpepper said at the time. “They have that connection, and I think it’s beautiful.”

An Associated Press story from 2003 also noted that Moss would take Spier to lunch every day while holding her “tiny hand.”

Moss has been there for Spier for well over a decade and once again, he was there for her on Friday when he handed Spier her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony that took place in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. Spier was among the 72 graduates who received a diploma at Pelican Rapids High School, according to the Pelican Rapids Press.

Pelican Rapids Public School District Superintendent Deb Wanek told the Fargo Forum that Moss had promised Spier he’d be at the ceremony.  “She’s had many struggles in her life, and he’s been there for her,” Wanek said. “He told her he’d be at her high school graduation.”

Even after Moss left Minnesota in 2004, he stayed in touch with Spier.  It hasn’t been an easy 17 years for Spier: Not only was she diagnosed with leukemia, but her dad died in a car accident in 2004 and she was also diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2013, but she always had a loving shoulder to lean on in Moss.

article by John Breech via cbssports.com

University of Washington School of Law Aims to Increase Diversity with New Program

greyH.WUStLouisLawA_BuschHallThe University of Washington School of Law has established a new fellows program aimed at increasing diversity at the law school and the legal profession. The Christine Gregoire Fellows Program, named after the former governor of the State of Washington, will choose nine students from underrepresented groups this year. The students will receive paid summer internships at local law firms or in the legal departments of area corporations after completing their first year of law school. The fellows will participate in a mentoring program led by Governor Gregoire, and will receive training to help them pass the Washington State bar examination.

Kellye Testy, dean of the University of Washington School of Law, said that “if we are to realize our goal of leadership for the global common good and of creating a legal profession as diverse as our society’s makeup, we need to encourage more underrepresented students to enter the legal profession. This innovative partnership will help us better reach students who are currently pursuing other paths. Moreover, by enhancing diversity in our classrooms we will enhance our academic excellence for all students.”

article via jbhe.com

Akon Lighting Africa To Train Future Tech Professionals at New “Solar Academy” in Mali to Help Provide Electricity to 600 Million in Africa

Akon at the second United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SE4A) on May 21, 2015.  [Photo via akonlightingafrica.com)

As the second United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Forum (SE4A) paid tribute in its closing session to the progress generated by the Akon Lighting Africa initiative launched in February 2014, its founders Akon, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily were already looking to the future and next steps. They have just announced the creation of a “Solar Academy” to develop skills and expertise in this field in Africa. This professional training center of excellence is a first on the continent and targets future African entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians. It will open its doors this summer in Bamako, Mali and welcome any Africans wanting to help develop the use of solar power.This project is being introduced under the patronage of Solektra international, a partner of Akon Lighting Africa, in collaboration some European experts who will supply training equipment and programs.  It aims to reinforce expertise in every aspect of installing and maintaining solar-powered electric systems and micro-grids in particular, which are really taking off in rural Africa.  With its 320 days sunshine a year, the continent is perfectly suited to the development of solar power, particularly since 622 million Africans still do not have access to electricity.

We have the sun and innovative technologies to bring electricity to homes and communities.  We now need to consolidate African expertise and that is our objective” explained Samba Bathily at the SE4All. “We are doing more than just investing in clean energy.  We are investing in human capital.  We can achieve great milestones and accelerate the African transformation process on condition that we start training a new generation of highly qualified African engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs now” he added.

With 70% of the population aged under 35, Africa is the continent with the youngest population today.  One of the biggest challenges it faces is training and creating sustainable employment.  “We expect the Africans who graduate from this center to devise new, innovative, technical solutions. With this Academy, we can capitalize on Akon Lighting Africa and go further,” Thione Niang said.  Indeed, Akon Lighting Africa adopted a sustainable business model from the outset – providing training and creating jobs enabling local populations to embrace technical solutions and become self-sufficient.  The Solar Academy will help to extend this business model and promote inclusive growth throughout Africa.

article via akonlightingafrica.com

Miami Mom Angelica Sweeting Creates Beautiful Natural Hair Doll for Her Daughters to Raise Their Self-Esteem

Angelica Doll

Frustrated by an inability to find a doll that highlighted her three daughters’ beautiful African-American features, Angelica Sweeting created one of her own.

Sweeting, 27, of Miami, Florida, created the Angelica Doll after realizing that her daughter Sophia was unhappy with her kinks and curls because of the straight-haired White dolls she played with every day, she said on a Kickstarter page started nearly a month ago to raise money to develop a line of Naturally Perfect Dolls.

“Sophia wanted long straight hair, and she even started expressing a strong dislike for her facial features and skin tone,” Sweeting says. “With the help of my daughters, we created ‘The Angelica Doll’ — the first natural hair 18-inch doll for young girls.”

As she began to develop the doll, Sweeting herself realized that she had been influenced by society’s White beauty standards for as long as she could remember.

“Here I am – 27 years old, and I am honestly just beginning to walk into who I am, my natural beauty,” she said on the fundraising page. “I want this to happen earlier, not only for my daughters but for your daughter, your niece, your sister, and for all young girls around the world. I want this to happen for all the young girls who never felt pretty enough because of their kinks, curls, wider noses or fuller lips.”

The Angelica Doll boasts the face of a beautiful brown girl, including a full nose, fuller lips, beautiful cheek bones, and brown eyes. And the hair can be washed, twisted, bantu knotted, combed, brushed, blown out, and curled just like the hair of brown girls.

“Say goodbye to spray-painted brown Barbie dolls!” Sweeting says. “I’m creating Angelica to let girls know that they are beautiful. Our girls need to see a reflection of their own unique beauty. It’s time for our young girls to have a new standard.”

As of Friday, she’s surpassed her funding goal of $25,000 by over $8,000.

article by Lynette Holloway via newsone.com

*FULL DISCLOSURE FROM GBN: After reading the story above, I immediately went to the Kickstarter page to see the doll.  My own 5 year-old daughter Phoebe lately has been grappling with the exact same issues Angelica Sweeting’s daughter is dealing with.  Phoebe and I watched the site’s video together, and when she saw the Angelica Doll – particularly her curly, versatile hair – she was so excited, she asked to have one right away.  And I bought one right away, so GBN is an official backer of what I feel is an incredibly helpful and worthwhile product.  We can’t wait for it to come and for more Naturally Perfect dolls to be created.

There are still 26 days left to pitch in or buy a doll… there is even an option to get a doll designed to look like you!  Check it out/donate/buy by clicking here.

Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GBN Founder and Editor-In-Chief (and very happy mommy)

Michael B. Jordan Addresses Racist Backlash Against his Casting in New ‘Fantastic Four’ Movie with Essay: “Why I’m Torching The Color Line”

Michael B. Jordan as “Johnny Storm/Human Torch” in “Fantastic Four” (Photo via ew.com)

You’re not supposed to go on the Internet when you’re cast as a superhero. But after taking on Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four—a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes—I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s president” and “It’s not true to the comic.” Or even, “They’ve destroyed it!”

It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, “You’re good. I’m okay with this,” who am I to go against that?

Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.

This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.

Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.

To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.

article by Michael B. Jordan via ew.com

1st Black Air Force General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Honored With New Barracks Named After Him at West Point

Air Force General Benjamin O. Davis (photo courtesy

Air Force General Benjamin O. Davis (photo courtesy wikiwand.com)

From 1900 to 1932, no African-American cadet matriculated at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1932, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the son of an Army officer, was admitted. He was “silenced” or shunned by his classmates for four years as officers and administrators at West Point looked the other way. No cadets, faculty or staff members befriended or spoke to him except on an official basis. Yet Davis persisted and graduated 35th in his class.

Benjamin O. Davis Jr. went on to command the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and later was the first Black general in the U.S. Air Force. He died in 2002.

Now the U.S. Military Academy is paying tribute to General Davis by naming a new cadet barracks in his honor.

“General Benjamin O. Davis Jr. epitomizes the essence of character and honorable living we strive to inspire in every cadet at West Point,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy.

article via jbhe.com

Detroit Teacher Nadirah Muhammad, 39, Donates Kidney to 18 Year-Old Student A’Ja Booth

A'Ja Booth, left, and teacher Nadirah Muhammad are honored with the red carpet treatment by their West Side Academy peers as they enter the gym Tuesday. Muhammad was motivated to get tested as a potential donor when she found out A’Ja needed a new kidney. (Photo: Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

A’Ja Booth, left, and teacher Nadirah Muhammad are honored with the red carpet treatment by their West Side Academy peers as they enter the gym Tuesday. Muhammad was motivated to get tested as a potential donor when she found out A’Ja needed a new kidney. (Photo: Photos by Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

A’Ja Booth walked the red carpet into the school gymnasium Tuesday with a shy smile and a new kidney.

It was the 18-year-old senior’s first day back at West Side Academy since a successful transplant five months ago. Ten classmates and a counselor on either side of the red carpet greeted her with confetti while 11th- and 12th-graders seated on bleachers cheered and applauded.

The woman close by her side on the red carpet, the one who linked arms with A’Ja and couldn’t stop smiling, was not just the physical education and health teacher. She was A’Ja’s donor.

They were a perfect match.

“This is what we do as teachers,” said Nadirah Muhammad, 39, who is a wife and the mother of a son. “I did not do it for the accolades. I saw a human being in need and if it were my child, I’d want someone to step forward and help him.”

When it was A’Ja’s turn at the microphone, inside the gym decorated with black and silver balloons, she was overcome with emotion and covered her eyes, crying softly.

The students applauded and shouted, “We love you,” urging her to take her time.  “I am really thankful and blessed,” said A’Ja. “I can’t thank her any more than I already have. I look at her as my second mother. She’s a wonderful woman.”

Andrea Ayler, principal of West Side Academy, said she had to push the teacher to go public about her gift to A’Ja.  “Mrs. Muhammad did not want a lot of publicity, but I told her we have to tell this story,” Ayler said. “People just don’t do this. I myself would be hesitant. … I’m just so grateful to be principal of a school of educators who love children unconditionally the way Mrs. Muhammad does.”

The donor and recipient came together after Muhammad met A’Ja in her dance class during winter semester last school year. In May 2014, the teacher noticed a book A’Ja had written, “My Dialysis Journey” and asked if she could read it.

The book was A’Ja’s story of being a kidney patient. She described undergoing dialysis for four hours at a time, three days a week, and how she needed a transplant. Muhammad was immediately moved to help.

“She had been in my dance class for about two or three months before I even knew she was on dialysis,” said Muhammad. “Now she’s healthy and it’s just great to see her back in school and graduating in a few weeks.”

In her book, A’Ja wrote: “I’m tired of living day to day like everything’s alright. Being in a chair and hooked up to a machine is not a choice. I have to do it.”

After doctors determined teacher and student were a match, Muhammad’s kidney was removed Dec. 15, 2014, at Henry Ford Hospital and transplanted into A’Ja at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Nearly seven weeks later, Muhammad returned to work at West Side Academy, an alternative education school.  A’Ja, meanwhile, is set to graduate June 8, pending completion of online courses.

Dr. Jason Denny, a surgeon at Henry Ford Health System and the Henry Ford Transplant Institute who performed the transplant, explained that kidney failure requires dialysis, which means a curtailed life.  “The best medical treatment for patients is a transplant, and donors can be living or deceased,” he said.

He emphasized the need for more organ donors. According to the National Kidney Foundation, as of April 22, 101,662 U.S. kidney patients were awaiting transplants.

A’Ja’s friend Dakota Crowder, 18, also a senior, said at first he was frightened for her because he had never known anyone who had had a kidney transplant.  “I felt relieved when I found out Mrs. Muhammad was the one who was donating the kidney,” he said. “When I found out everything was OK after the transplant, I was happy for A’Ja and Mrs. Muhammad.”

A’Ja said she plans to attend Oakland University and hopes to become a nurse.

“She will have a long and prosperous life taking good care of my kidney,” Muhammad said.

article by Shawn D. Lewis via detroitnews.com

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