Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios’ Inaugural Oscars Gala Raises $1 million for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Byron Allen (photo via thegrio.com)

article by thegrio.com

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios helped raise more than $1 million for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Sunday night during a star-studded gala at The Montage in Beverly Hills.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do for many, many years,” Allen said. “We can’t do enough for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.”

The event featured stirring live performances by Toni Braxton and Babyface. Attendees were able to bid on auction items such as 12 hours of flight time on a private jet and an exclusive dinner party and movie screening experience on a $250 million estate.

The fundraiser is the first of what will become an annual gala on Oscars night. Celebrities in attendance said they appreciated the opportunity to make such a positive impact.  “It’s not just a party,” said Sherri Shepherd, who was also in attendance. “[Byron Allen] is doing it with a purpose. He’s partying with a purpose.”

To read full article, go to: Entertainment Studios’ inaugural Oscars Gala raises $1 million for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles | theGrio

“Moonlight” Triumphs at Oscars, Wins Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actor

Barry Jenkins accepts Best Picture Oscar for "Moonlight" (Patrick T. Fallon via nytimes.com)

Barry Jenkins accepts Best Picture Oscar for “Moonlight” (Patrick T. Fallon via nytimes.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Moonlight topped off its amazing awards-season run by earning the Best Picture Oscar at the 89th Academy Awards. Moonlight director/writer/producer Barry Jenkins accepted the award at the end of the night after a shocking turn of events where La La Land was mistakenly called to stage to receive the Academy’s highest honor. Jenkins also won with co-writer Tarell Alvin McCraney for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim actor in Oscar history to win the Best Supporting Actor Award.

The star-studded evening also saw an energizing opening performance of “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Original Song nominee Justin Timberlake, a medley of two songs from “La La Land” by its co-star John Legend (“City of Stars” went on to win the Original Song award) and a standing ovation for Best Feature Documentary presenter, Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was introduced by “Hidden Figures” stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae (and wheeled out on stage by current NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle).

There were also Oscar presentations from Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, but one of the biggest highlights of the evening was the speech delivered by three-time nominee and Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis:

Viola Davis (photo via Parade.com)

Viola Davis (photo via Parade.com)

People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories, the stories of the people who dreamed.  I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. So here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people.

Davis went on to thank her co-stars and Best Director/Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington, her family and her parents.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Debuts at Top of Weekend Box Office With $30.5 Million

“Get Out” (photo courtesy of Universal)

article by Brent Lang via Variety.com

“Get Out,” a trenchant horror film about race relations, rode critical raves to a smashing box office debut. The low-budget film was the weekend’s top-grossing domestic release, earning $30.5 million, and propelling its director and writer Jordan Peele atop Hollywood’s A-list.

The film, which centers on a black man who discovers that his girlfriend’s liberal, lily-white hometown is guarding a sinister secret, marks a departure for Peele, best-known for his work on the Comedy Central series “Key & Peele.” It proves he can handle scares, as well as laughs, supplying sly social commentary in both genres.

“Get Out” also extends Blumhouse Productions’ hot hand. The film company scored earlier this year with “Split,” a thriller about a man with a personality disorder that racked up $130.8 million stateside on a $9 million budget. Universal distributed, marketed, and partnered on both movies.“It’s entertaining, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s subversive,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief.  “I have seen [‘Get Out’] play with audiences. They enjoy themselves and they’re telling their friends.”

It wasn’t just word-of-mouth that accounted for the robust opening. “Get Out” benefited from being embraced by reviewers, earning a rare 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the likes of the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern hailing its “explosive brilliance” and the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis praising it as “exhilaratingly smart.” The last horror film to receive that type of unanimous praise was Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” in 1965.

To read more, go to: Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Dominates Box Office With $30.5 Million Debut | Variety

Google Pledges $11.5M to Organizations that Fight Racial Bias in Criminal Justice System

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Dr. Phil Goff, co-founder and president of the Center for Policing Equity. (photo via usatoday.com)

article by  via usatoday.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Google is handing out $11.5 million in grants to organizations combating racial disparities in the criminal justice system, double what it has given so far. And, in keeping with a company built on information, the latest wave of grants target organizations that crunch data to pinpoint problems and propose solutions.

“There is significant ambiguity regarding the extent of racial bias in policing and criminal sentencing,” says Justin Steele, principal with Google.org, the Internet giant’s philanthropic arm. “We must find ways to improve the accessibility and usefulness of information.”  Among the organizations receiving funds from Google.org is the Center for Policing Equity, a national research center that collaborates with police departments and the communities they serve to track statistics on law enforcement actions, from police stops to the use of force.

In addition to the grant of $5 million, Google engineers will put their time and skills to work on improving the center’s national database.”It’s hard to measure justice,” says Phillip Atiba Goff, the center’s co-founder and president. “In policing, data are so sparse and they are not shared broadly. The National Justice Database is an attempt to measure justice so that people who want to do the right thing can use that metric to lay out a GPS for getting where we are trying to go. That’s really what we see Google as being a key partner in helping us do.”

Like other major technology companies, Google is trying to address the racial imbalance in the demographics of its workforce. Hispanics make up 3% of Google employees and African Americans 2%. In 2015, Google gave $2.35 million to community organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area tackling systemic racism in America’s criminal justice, prison and educational systems.

Four more grants totaling $3 million followed in 2016, including $1 million to Bryan Stevenson and his nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative to push America to confront its violent racial history including lynchings. The latest round of grants again put Google in the thick of a national conversation on race prompted by the police shooting deaths and mass incarceration of African Americans.

To read full article, go to: Google pledges $11.5M to fight racial bias in policing, sentencing

“Get Out” Writer/Director Jordan Peele Signs 1st-Look Deal With Sonar Entertainment

Jordan Peele (photo via Variety.com)

article by Oriana Schwindt via Variety.com

Jordan Peele has just signed a first-look deal with Sonar Entertainment for his production company, Monkeypaw Productions. The agreement encompasses all content for television, including digital. The news comes just ahead of the premiere of Peele’s feature directorial debut with horror film “Get Out,” which is already earning rave reviews.

Peele and Keegan-Michael Key created and performed in the Emmy-winning sketch series “Key & Peele,” which concluded a five-season run on Comedy Central in 2015. “Jordan Peele is one of the brightest stars in our business — a true hyphenate — actor, writer, producer and director. We are excited to partner with him and Monkeypaw,” said Sonar CEO Thomas Lesinski.

“I am thrilled to partner with the incredible folks at Sonar Entertainment as they are committed to truly elevated quality content. Especially now as I move into this next chapter in television, my aim is to help develop untapped voices as well as my own dream shows, and continue to push the boundaries of television,” Peele said.

Monkeypaw Productions was founded by Peele in 2012.  In TV, Monkeypaw produced “Key & Peele” and is also behind Tracy Morgan’s TBS comedy series, which is set for production later this year.

To read more, go to: Jordan Peele Inks First-Look Deal With Sonar Entertainment | Variety

ACLU Sues City of Milwaukee for Racially Biased Stop-and-Frisk Policy

(image via colorlines.com; Courtesy of ACLU of Wisconsin, via Twitter @ACLUofWisconsin)

article by Kenrya Rankin via colorlines.com

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin just filed a law suit against the city of Milwaukee alleging that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) routinely and purposely stops and frisks Black and Latinx people with no cause.

Collins v. City of Milwaukee was filed in the Milwaukee Division of the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District of Wisconsin. It names six Black and Latinx residents who were stopped by police without reasonable suspicion as the plaintiffs. But as a class action suit, it seeks redress for every person who has been, or will be, stopped by the MPD since January 7, 2008, plus a subclass that includes all Black and Latinx members of that class.

The suit names the city, Chief of Police Edward Flynn and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission as defendants. Filed yesterday (February 22), the suit alleges that at Flynn’s direction, the department violates the protections that should be afforded citizens of color via the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And the ACLU says those violations are increasing: the number of traffic and pedestrian stops tripled in the years after Flynn became the top cop, jumping from 66,657 in 2007 to 196,434 in 2015.

To read more, go to: ACLU Sues City of Milwaukee for Racist Stop and Frisk Policy | Colorlines

Magic Johnson Named President of Los Angeles Lakers

Lakers President Magic Johnson (photo via Variety.com)

article by  via Variety.com

NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson has been named the Los Angeles Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations in an overhaul of the struggling team’s front office. The team announced on Tuesday that general manager Mitch Kupchak has been let go and that Jim Buss will no longer serve as executive VP of basketball operations.

Buss is the son of the deceased Lakers owner Jerry Buss and brother of Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss. The team is currently 19-39 and in 14th place (of the 15 teams) in the NBA’s Western Conference.

Johnson was hired as an adviser to the Lakers earlier this month and subsequently said he would like to “call the shots” for the team. The announcement did not specify whether Johnson will handle day-to-day operations. “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as president of basketball operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family,” Johnson said in a statement. “Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons, leading the team to five NBA championships in what was widely known as the team’s “Showtime” era. He won three Most Valuable Player awards Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ president, governor, and co-owner said that the team is actively searching for a new general manager.

To read more, go to: Magic Johnson Named Lakers President | Variety