Claudia Rankine, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kellie Jones and Joyce J. Scott Among 2016 MacArthur “Genius” Grant Recipients

2016 MacArthur Grant Fellows Claudia Rankine (top l); Kellie Jones (top r); Brandon Jeknins (bottom l); Sharon Scott (bottom r) [Photos courtesy macfound.org)

2016 MacArthur Grant Fellows Claudia Rankine (top l); Kellie Jones (top r); Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (bottom l); Joyce J. Scott (bottom r) [Photos courtesy macfound.org)

article by Jennifer Schuessler via nytimes.com

Getting a phone call from an unidentified number in Chicago in late summer is a fantasy many artists, scientists and other creative people have entertained. But that doesn’t mean it seems real when it actually happens.

“I thought I was having a psychotic breakdown,” the playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins said of his reaction to learning several weeks ago that he was among the 23 people selected as 2016 fellows of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“I went out on the street, and ran into a friend,” Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins continued. “I had him look at my cellphone, just to confirm that the call had been real.”

This year’s winners of the MacArthur fellowships, awarded for exceptional “originality, insight and potential,” and publicly announced on Thursday, include writers, visual artists, scientists, nonprofit organization leaders and others, who are chosen at a moment when the recognition and money — a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 distributed over five years — will make a difference.

“We want to give people new wind against their sails,” said Cecilia A. Conrad, a managing director of the foundation and the leader of the fellows program.

The honorees include relatively well-known figures in the arts like the poet Claudia Rankine, 53, whose book “Citizen,” (2014) which explored racism in everyday life, won numerous awards and made the New York Times best-seller list; the essayist Maggie Nelson, 43, who won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for “The Argonauts,” a hard-to-classify exploration of gender, motherhood and identity; and Gene Luen Yang, 43, who in January became the first graphic novelist named national ambassador for children’s literature by the Library of Congress.

The youngest fellow is Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins, 31, known for plays, like “An Octoroon” and “Neighbors,” that address race, class and history, sometimes through the remixing of charged stereotypes. The oldest is Joyce J. Scott, 67, a Baltimore-based artist whose work includes performance art and large-scale sculptural pieces that incorporate traditional beadwork into pointed commentaries on American culture, the black female body and other subjects.

To read full article, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/arts/macarthur-foundation-announces-2016-genius-grant-winners.html

Jack and Jill of America’s Youth Turn Loose Change into $35,000 Donation to Support Barack Obama Presidential Library 

getting-ready

Jack and Jill of America Youth Prior To Presenting $35,000 Donation to the Obama Foundation (Photo courtesy of Jack and Jill of America)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

 Jack and Jill of America, Inc.’s youngest members collected pennies, nickels and dimes as part of their Loose Change Program that resulted in a $35,000 donation to the Obama Foundation, in support of Chicago’s Barack Obama Presidential Library. Mothers and families of Jack and Jill of America in Chicago came together to present the foundation with the donation in a private celebration.

“The Mid Western Region was incredibly honored to present this donation that not only honors the first African-American US President, Barack Obama, but makes an impact in a community that needs positive reinforcements and contributions,” says Mid-Western Regional Director Nadine Gibson. “As advocates for childhood literacy, Jack and Jill understands the important role public libraries play in communities.”

The Loose Change program was initiated as a giving opportunity for our youth ages two through 12, to make a significant impact in underserved communities.  The Mid-Western Region received the donation collected in 2015 and selected the Barack Foundation as the recipient of choice. 

“We are excited about this giving opportunity.  Now, each time we visit the Library we will know that Jack and Jill helped to make a positive contribution to its development and commitment to the community,” says Mid-Western Regional Teen President, Kellen Love.

For more information on how you can make a donation, or to find out more about Jack and Jill of America and its chapters, visit jackandjillinc.org.

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BLACK ENTERPRISE: 11 Black Owned Businesses You Can Support

article by Patrice Tartt via blackenterprise.com

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, especially as a minority, given all of the competition. In fact, it takes diligence, perseverance, follow through, hard work, and a lot of it to be successful in any business. The thought of pursuing your dream is nice, but putting action behind that thought is just the preliminary phase, and where the hard work begins. And, the going doesn’t actually get tough until you start building your business with your blood, sweat, and your tears. As a fellow entrepreneur, I know about all of this a little too well, but in the end, it’s worth it, because dreaming isn’t just something that we do at night, dreams are meant to be lived.

Black-owned businesses have progressed rapidly over the years, and according to the most updated figures in 2007, provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 1.9 million companies owned by black entrepreneurs, so imagine how many more there are to date. Supporting these businesses not only helps the entrepreneurs but also puts money back into the black community. BOBs are depending on the support of their community in order to survive and to thrive. With so many competitors in each industry, things can take a turn for the worst quickly if a business is not careful, therefore, we must be there for each other, diligently supporting. There is power in the black dollar, so why not put that power into assisting a community that understands your heritage and history, and values your life in general. While doing all of this, you should expect a quality product or service in return, and it becomes a win-win for both parties involved.

I’ve made it easy by compiling this list. Included are 11 black entrepreneurs that I highly recommend supporting, along with detailed information on each of their businesses. The majority are online businesses and the others that aren’t, be sure to recommend to both friends and family located in the respective areas.

Latorie Walker, owner & CEO of Aspire Early Learning Academy I & II located in West Columbia and Lexington, South Carolina, offers a boutique-style learning environment where children are taught with individualized developmental plans and a curriculum that adequately prepares each child for kindergarten. AspireELA, strives for excellence while preparing their students for a bright future in a safe, loving, and fun environment that focuses on academics. The teaching team at AspireELA are patient with all of their students and are well experienced in the field of Early Childhood. They are committed to ensuring that every child receives the best opportunity to produce the foundation for a fruitful, educational, and life-long experience. www.aspireearlylearningacademy.com

Brittney S. Carter, CEO of B. Carter Solutions L.L.C. located in the Washington, DC metro area was launched in April 2015. Carter decided that she wanted to start a company that offers “solutions” to a consumer’s problem under one umbrella. As a one-stop shop for public relations, social media management, and professional development needs, she relishes the opportunity to provide consumers with operational convenience.  B. Carter Solutions is committed to elevate imaginative solutions by focusing on the mission behind the vision. They desire to measure the success for their clients through awareness, innovation, and out-of-the-box strategies sticking to their mantra, “Where Vision Meets Strategy.” www.bcartersolutions.com

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Lupita Nyong’o Speaks on Colorism and More Opportunities for People of Color

Lupita Nyong’o (Photo: Courtesy of Vogue)

article by Erica Schwiegershausen via nymag.com

In the October issue of Vogue, three-time cover girl Lupita Nyong’o talks about growing up in Nairobi, and her desire to see more African narratives represented in Hollywood and beyond. “I want to create opportunities for other people of color because I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to do that,” she said.

Recently, Nyong’o starred in “Eclipsed” on Broadway, playing a 15-year-old girl held captive by a rebel officer in Liberia. In her latest film, “Queen of Katwe,” she plays the mother of a Ugandan girl who becomes an international chess master. (The film opens next week.) And she’s also working on the forthcoming film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah“— a love story that centers around two Nigerians.

“Being able to use my platform to expand and diversify the African voice … I feel very passionate about that. It feels intentional, meaningful,” Nyong’o said.  She was drawn to “Queen of Katwe,” she said, because it was “based on a true story, an uplifting story out of Africa.”  Nyong’o also reflected — not for the first time — on the significance of seeing darker-skinned women represented and celebrated as beautiful.

Alek Wek changed how dark people saw themselves,” she said. “That I could do the same in a way for somebody somewhere is amazing.” She added, “The European sense of beauty affects us all. I came home from college in the early two-thousands and saw ads on TV with a girl who can’t get a job. She uses this product. She gets her skin lighter. She gets the job. The lording of lighter skin is a common thing growing up in Nairobi. Being called ‘black mamba.’ The slow burn of recognizing something else is better than you.”

Working on the set of “Queen of Katwe,” Nyong’o said a young Ugandan-British woman came up to her and said: “I’ve never had so many people call me beautiful until you showed up. I get called to auditions I never would have been called to before. I know it’s because you exist.”

Source: Lupita Nyong’o Wants Opportunities for People of Color

Netflix Buys Young Barack Obama Movie ‘Barry’ at Toronto Film Festival

Devon Terrell in “Barry” (photo via variety.com)

article by Dave McNary via Variety.com

Netflix has bought worldwide rights to “Barry,” a week after the young Barack Obama movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie is set in New York City with Obama as a college student faced with questions about race, culture, and identity.

“Barry” premiered in the Special Presentations section at the Ryerson Theater on Sept. 10.  Variety‘s Owen Glieberman said in his review, “Set in 1981, when Obama was a 20-year-old college student who moved to New York to transfer to Columbia University, the film is rooted in the murky, drifting, sleep-late-and-get-stoned-and-do-whatever nature of college life that the movies almost never get right. This one does, and that’s one reason it feels bracingly authentic.”

Devon Terrell and Anya Taylor-Joy were cast as the leads in “Barry” in March. Vikram Gandhi, whose “Kumare” won the 2011 audience award at SXSW, directed from a screenplay written by novelist Adam Mansbach, who wrote “Go the F**k to Sleep.”

To read more, go to: Toronto: Netflix Buys Young Barack Obama Movie ‘Barry’ | Variety

Tamara McNeil Creates Just Like Me!, A Book Subscription Box for Black Children

(photo via matermea.com)

article by Ashley Poag via matermea.com

Tamara McNeil loves reading to her son, and she’s not alone. It’s a daily activity that creates a bond between parents and infants as they learn the rhythm of language. Both parent and child find comfort in the cuddles shared while reading.Reading time can also come with its own set of challenges, like restlessness and a desire to find out what a book’s pages taste like. But for African-American children like McNeil’s baby boy, there’s an additional challenge—the lack of representation.

The Black community is bombarded with images of people who look like them experiencing extreme violence, sadness, and despair on an almost daily basis. The need for positive representations of African Americans in media, especially in early childhood literature, is increasingly important.

It’s why movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks started in 2014—and it’s why McNeil decided to launch Just Like Me!, a subscription box service that sends families two to three books a month based on your child’s age. For $25 a month your child will receive African-American focused literature from award-winning authors, as well as up-and-coming writers. From Black history to finding the magic in our ordinary lives, the service seeks to bring the very best of African-American children’s literature to those who need it most.

To read full article, go to: A Book Subscription Box Created For Black Children — mater mea

To visit McNeil’s website, go to justlikemebox.com

Spike Lee’s ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Being Remade as 10-Episode Series for Netflix

(image via timeandtrees.com)

(image via timeandtrees.com)

article via blackamericaweb.com

Spike Lee’s 1986 film “She’s Gotta Have It” is headed to Netflix as a 10-episode series with all new actors.

The streaming service has ordered a remake of the film, which will also center on Nola Darling, a Brooklyn-based artist in her late twenties struggling to define herself and divide her time amongst her friends, her job and her three lovers: The Cultured Model, Greer Childs; The Protective Investment Banker, Jamie Overstreet; and Da Original B-Boy Sneakerhead, Mars Blackmon.

According to Variety, Lee will direct each half-hour installment and serve as executive producer on the project with his wife and producing partner Tonya Lewis Lee.

Lee released the following statement on the series pickup:

“SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT Has A Very Special Place In My Heart. We Shot This Film In 12 Days (2 Six Day Weeks) Way Back In The Back Back Of The Hot Summer Of 1985 For A Mere Total of $175,000. Funds That We Begged, Borrowed and Whatnot To Get That Money. This Is The 1st Official Spike Lee Feature Film Joint And Everything That We Have Been Blessed With In This Tough Business Of Film All Have Been Due To SGHI.

Now With The Passing (August 8th) Of The 30th Anniversary, It’s A Gift That Keeps On Giving. We Are Getting An Opportunity To Revisit These Memorable Characters Who Will Still Be Relevant And Avant Garde 3 Decades Later. With All That Said It Was My Wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, Producer In Her Own Right, Who Had The Vision To Take My Film From The Big Screen And Turn It Into An Episodic Series. It Had Not Occurred To Me At All. Tonya Saw It Plain As Day. I Didn’t.

We Are Hyped That NETFLIX Is Onboard With This Vision As Nola Darling, Mars Blackmon, Jamie Overstreet And Greer Childs DO DA DAMN THANG Now, Today In Da Republic Of Brooklyn, New York.”