‘Moonlight’ Filmmaker Barry Jenkins to Adapt and Direct TV Series for Amazon Based on Colson Whitehead’s NYT Bestseller “The Underground Railroad”

Barry Jenkins (Photo: ROB LATOUR/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Joe Otterson via Variety.com

“Moonlight” director and Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins will write and direct a one-hour drama series about the Underground Railroad currently in development at Amazon. The series will be based on Colson Whitehead’s best-selling book, “The Underground Railroad.”

“Going back to ‘The Intuitionist,’ Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and ‘The Underground Railroad’ is no different,” Jenkins said. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

Published by Doubleday, “The Underground Railroad” has sold over 825,000 copies in the United States across all formats. An Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection, New York Times bestseller, and the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, the book chronicles young Cora’s journey as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping her Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

This will be Johnson’s first attempt at directing a TV series in its entirety. He recently directed an episode of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the film “Dear White People,” and previously directed one episode of the PBS series “Futurestates.” Jenkins’ Pastel Productions will executive produce along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Pitt and Plan B also produced “Moonlight.”

To read full article, go to: ‘Moonlight’ Director to Write, Direct Underground Railroad Series | Variety

Jay Z and Weinstein Co. to Make Trayvon Martin Film and Documentary Series

Trayvon Martin (photo via variety.com)

article by Justin Kroll and Brent Lang via variety.com

Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and the Weinstein Company are partnering on an ambitious series of film and television projects about Trayvon Martin.  The indie label and the rap icon won a heated bidding war for the rights to two books — “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It” and “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.” The 2012 shooting of the 17 year-old Martin sparked a national debate about racial profiling and inequities of the criminal justice system that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The African-American high school student was killed by George Zimmerman, 28, who was a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community. He claimed he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self defense after the two became involved in a physical altercation. Zimmerman’s acquittal on a second-degree murder charge inspired protests around the country.

“Suspicion Nation” is by Lisa Bloom and recounts her experience covering the trial for NBC. She looks at the mistakes made by prosecutors that caused them to lose what she describes as a “winnable case.” “Rest in Power” is by Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. It tells a more personal story, looking at Martin’s childhood and the aftermath of his death.

The plan is to make a six-part docu-series with Jay Z producing as part of a first-look deal he signed with the studio last September. The indie studio will also develop a narrative feature film. The Weinstein Company earned critical raves for “Fruitvale Station,” another true story, about the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer.

To read more: Jay Z to Make Trayvon Martin Film and Documentary Series | Variety

Sidney Keys III, 11, Founds Books N Bros to Help Other Boys Fall in Love with Reading

Sidney Keys III founded Books N Bros, a reading club that emphasizes making reading fun while lifting up works of African American literature and culture. (KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO)

article by Kelly Moffitt via news.stlpublicradio.org

Six months ago, 11-year-old St. Louisan Sidney Keys III started a reading club for boys his age to band together in their love of books. He calls it Books N Bros, and the club has an emphasis on making reading fun while lifting up African American literature and culture.

“Books N Bros is a book club for boys and we read books and African American literature because every time I go to the library at my school, there aren’t many African American literature books there,” said Keys in an interview on St. Louis on the Air. “I already love to read and since we don’t get that much time to read in school, we just discuss in groups. I wanted to read a book but I also wanted to discuss it with other people.”

Keys’ mom, Winnie Caldwell, said she knew Sidney had always loved to read because he’d often come to her wanting to talk about books.

About six months ago, they went to visit EyeSeeMe, a bookstore in University City focusing on African American children’s literature. While there, Winnie shot a video of Sidney reading in the store and it went viral on Facebook. Some 62,000 people have viewed the video and it has been shared 1,700 times.

Books N Bros card (KELLY MOFFITT | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO)

“He hadn’t seen [a bookstore] like that before and I certainly never had, so he was making himself comfortable on the floor, reading a book,” Caldwell said. “… When you get to a point when he is 11 years old and it was so shocking for him to relate to someone on the cover in a positive aspect rather than it be some negative urban story we see a lot. I would like to make sure he sees himself in being whatever he can be.”

After the video went viral, she and Sidney sat down to think about what he wanted to do next. A book club immediately jumped to mind.

“We specifically reach out to boys around ages 8-10 because that is statistically the age they stop reading — we wanted to combat that,” Caldwell said.

Keys added: “My motivation is I already love to read but it would be awesome, even better, to read with other people. I want to keep doing it because I don’t know what will make me stop reading because I love to read.”

The club meets once a month, discussing one book the club has voted on. While their numbers are still small, the book club has grown each month. Last month, two new members joined bringing the group to 7-10 members each month. The group is welcoming to boys of all backgrounds and races, but the club does focus on stories with African American protagonists.

Keys and Caldwell have also struck a deal with the Microsoft Store at the Galleria, where the book club meets. The boys discuss their books for an hour before each gets 30 minutes to play video games on a personal console at the store. A group called Serving with the Badge also donated 200 books to the book club so boys can take books home with them for their personal collection.

Some of the book club favorites so far have been “Danny Dollar,” “Hidden Figures” and “Supah Dupah Kid.” In February, for Black History Month, the group read “A Song for Harlem: Scraps of Time,” by Patricia McKissack, a St. Louis-based children’s book author.

For now, the book club has plans to stay boys-only, but Caldwell said there’s another book club called Nerdy Girls, which is aimed at girls between ages 6-12 and has over 75 members. Caldwell and Keys plan on partnering with Nerdy Girls in the future.

Caldwell said that if there are boys who are interested in joining the club, which costs $20 per month, they can find more information on the website https://www.booksnbros.com/ or email info@booksnbros.com.

To read full article, go to: Books N Bros’ 11-year-old founder wants to help boys love reading at an age when they often don’t | St. Louis Public Radio

Kevin Young Named Poetry Editor at The New Yorker Magazine

Kevin Young (Credit Melanie Dunea/CP)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to nytimes.com, Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has been named the new poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine.

According to wikipedia.org, Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1992–94), and received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group the Dark Room Collective. He is heavily influenced by the poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson and by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Young is an esteemed poet and scholar whose work has been published in The New Yorker dating back to 1999.  His most recent work, “Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015,” made the 2016 National Book Award long list.

Young, 46, will officially take over the post in November, after he takes part in a passing of the torch of sorts: a reading and interview with current The New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon at the New Yorker Festival in the fall.

MIT’s Admissions Video Features Black Superhero Riri Williams aka “Ironheart”

Marvel Comics superhero RiRi Williams aka “Ironheart” (photo via blackamericaweb.com)

article via blackamericaweb.com

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for creating innovative videos to inform applicants about when admissions decisions will be revealed. This year’s video featured Marvel Comics character Riri Williams—a African-American teenage superhero, highlighting the importance of representation.

From Digital Trends:

This time around, the short film features Marvel Comics character Riri Williams — the teenage girl who briefly served as the new Iron Man before becoming the armored superhero Ironheart — as she studies at MIT, assembles her armored suit, and takes it for a test flight to deliver admissions letters. Titled “Not all heroes wear capes — but some carry tubes (Pi Day 2017),” the video references MIT’s tradition of sending out the admissions letters in tubes, and delivering them on March 14, a date also known as Pi Day.

In the video, MIT student Ayomide F. takes on the role of Williams, who was introduced in the May 2016 issue of Invincible Iron Man. A 15-year-old engineering prodigy attending MIT, Williams built her own suit of Iron Man armor from equipment she stole around campus and caught Tony Stark’s eye after apprehending a pair of escaped inmates while wearing the armor. In Marvel Comics lore, she eventually filled in for Tony when he became sick and took the name Ironheart as her superhero nickname.

Watch the video below.

Source: MIT’s Admissions Video Features Black Woman Superhero | Black America Web

Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street to Produce Film Adaptation of Bestseller “The Mothers” for Warner Bros. 

Kerry Washington (photo via variety.com)

article by Justin Kroll via Variety.com

Warner Bros. has optioned Brit Bennett’s debut novel and New York Times bestseller, ”The Mothers,” with Kerry Washington on board to produce. Washington will produce under the Simpson Street Banner, along with Natalie Krinsky. Bennett will write the script and executive produce.

Originally published in October 2016 by Riverhead, a division of Penguin, “The Mothers” is a story about young love, friendship, a big secret in a small community, and the things that ultimately haunt us most. At this time, Washington is just producing the project.

Simpson Street’s first production, “Confirmation,” earned critical acclaim as well as an Emmy nomination for best movie made for television. “The Mothers” will be their first feature project for Warner Bros. ‎Washington also received an Emmy nomination for “Confirmation” and continues to star in the hit ABC series “Scandal.”

To read more, go to: Warner Bros. Options ‘The Mothers’ for Kerry Washington | Variety

Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain Join DC’s ‘Black Lightning’ Pilot for CW

Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain (photos via shadowandact.com)

article via shadowandact.com

Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain have joined the previously cast Cress Williams in The CW’s upcoming DC Comics pilot “Black Lightning.” Cress Williams plays the title role (real name Jefferson Pierce), while Williams and McClain have signed up to play his daughters, Anissa and Jennifer Pierce – one a 20-something, passionate and quick-witted, who balances the demands of medical school with her job teaching part-time at her father’s school; and the other is an independent, outspoken scholar-athlete with a wild streak of her own.

In the DC comics, both daughters follow in their father’s footsteps and become superheroes themselves, known as Thunder and Lightning.

Thunder and Lightning (image via DC comics)

Initially set up at Fox TV, the Warner Bros/DC Comics project “Black Lightning” was moved to The CW, where it received an official pilot order. Fox put the project in turnaround after deciding not to proceed with a pilot. The move to The CW actually makes sense, as other Greg Berlanti superhero series (“The Flash” and “Supergirl”) are all currently at The CW. Recall “Supergirl” spent its first season on CBS, but it never really quite caught on with that network’s viewers, and so was shipped off to The CW.

Berlanti is collaborating with Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil on the live-action series based on the Black Lightning superhero – one of the first major African American superheroes to appear in DC Comics.

To read more, go to: Nafessa Williams and China Anne McClain Join CW’s ‘Black Lightning’ Pilot – Shadow and Act